Stakeknife team preparing files on 20 IRA murders and other crimes
Detectives examining the activities of a top British spy inside the IRA are preparing files on more than 20 murders, the High Court heard today.
The Operation Kenova investigation team also plans to submit findings on dozens of other abduction and alleged state misconduct cases to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) by the end of the year.
Nearly 30 suspects identified so far could now face criminal proceedings as part of the probe centred on the agent codenamed Stakeknife.
The developments were revealed during civil proceedings against a 75-year-old west Belfast man who denies being the spy.
Freddie Scappaticci is facing a total of 32 separate lawsuits over his alleged activities while in charge of the IRA’s internal security team, the so-called ‘Nutting Squad’.
But Jon Boutcher, the former Bedfordshire Chief Constable heading the Operation Kenova probe, wants those actions put on hold until his criminal investigation is completed. Mr Boutcher fears it could have a “chilling” effect on cooperation from victims and witnesses if material is disclosed during civil litigation.
The court heard terrorist organisations are still actively trying to prevent the prosecution of their members, as well as identifying those who may assist with the ongoing inquiries.
Tony McGleenan QC, representing the Chief Constable, detailed a new affidavit from Mr Boutcher which provided an update on the investigation.
“They are processing the following: 20 murder cases involving 21 victims; 19 abduction cases involving 20 alleged victims; category two cases involving 16 persons of interest, which which are state misconduct cases; and a perjury matter,” the barrister said.
“They intend to submit files to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) on all of the relevant matters by the end of 2021.”
A statement from a senior PPS representative agreed the civil claims should be postponed to avoid any prejudice to the criminal investigation.
He confirmed that decisions are to be taken on 27 suspects named in files already sent to the prosecution service.
With the Operation Kenova team yet to finalise two further batches of files relating to eight murders and four abductions, it was contended that the integrity of the investigation is at stake.
Mr McGleenan submitted: “These are truly exceptional cases... files have been submitted to the PPS in respect of more than 20 murders.”
Based on Mr Boutcher’s concerns, counsel claimed there is a real risk to that prosecutorial process.
“He makes it absolutely clear that the potential for successful prosecution in respect of these murders and abductions is critically dependent on the trust and confidence of the victims, witnesses and families,” Mr McGleenan added.
“He also makes it crystal clear that there is ongoing subversive activity in respect of those potential witnesses - threats, intimidation, monitoring and gathering of information are all identified by Mr Boutcher.”
Detectives believe they have uncovered evidence of criminal wrongdoing by both IRA and security force members.
Scappaticci left Northern Ireland for a secret location in 2003 after he was widely named as being Stakenife.
Before quitting his home he vehemently denied that he was the prized British agent within the ranks of the republican movement.
In one case he is being sued, along with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the PSNI, by Newry woman Margaret Keely.
She alleges that she was wrongfully arrested and held at Castlereagh police station in 1994 following an IRA attempt to murder a senior detective in east Belfast.
Mrs Keeley was released without charge, but claims she was then taken to a flat in the New Lodge area of the city and questioned by an IRA team.
Scappaticci was one of the men who carried out two debriefing sessions, according to her account.
Lawyers for those taking civil action resisted any attempt to stay their litigation until criminal cases are completed.
Hugh Southey QC argued that closed material proceedings - so-called secret court hearings - could deal with any concerns over sensitive documents and avoid further delay.
“If there’s delay now some victims may be dead by the time their civil claims are able to be progressed,” he said.
Following submissions Mr Justice Horner pledged to rule on the application for a stay as soon as possible.