A landmark legal bid for secrecy around part of a High Court action against the alleged one-time top British agent inside the IRA is to be heard early next year, a judge confirmed on Friday.
Police and the Ministry of Defence are seeking closed material procedures for the first time in Northern Ireland in a lawsuit involving west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci.
The case is among eight actions where applications aimed at protecting national security are being planned.
Others include a claim brought by the mother of a man murdered by the IRA 25 years ago.
Attempts to secure CMPs are being advanced by the PSNI and MoD under powers contained in the Justice and Security Act 2013.
The so-called secret courts would involve intelligence documents being assessed only by a judge and special advocates there to protect the interests of plaintiffs shut out from the hearings.
Applications are being made on the basis that the cases involve material so sensitive it could potentially damage national security.
But some lawyers have claimed it is a draconian step using legislation brought in more to deal with the Al-Qaeda threat rather than the legacy of the Irish conflict.
One of the cases involves an action by Margaret Keeley against the Chief Constable, MoD and Scappaticci, the 68-year-old who denies allegations that he was the military spy inside the Provisionals codenamed Stakeknife.
The Newry woman’s former husband is Peter Keeley, an ex-MI5 agent who also uses the pseudonym Kevin Fulton.
She alleges she was wrongfully arrested and falsely imprisoned during a three-day period at Castlereagh police station in 1994 following an IRA attempt to murder a senior detective in east Belfast.
She believes her detention was part of an elaborate sham to protect her husband’s cover.
Mrs Keeley was released without charge, but claims to have then been taken with Fulton to a flat in the New Lodge area of north Belfast and interrogated by an IRA security team.
Mr Scappaticci was one of the men who carried out two debriefing sessions, she has previously alleged in court.
At the High Court in Belfast on Friday barrister Danny Friedman QC said CMPs being sought in Mrs Keeley’s claim and two other cases will involve the question of dealing with either a defendant or key figure in the actions being an alleged informant.
Referring to Mrs Keeley’s detention, he told Mr Justice Stephens it was allegedly “a theatrical arrest, a ruse to cover for Mr Keeley’s status and thereafter the kidnap and interrogation by Mr Scappaticci”.
Mr Friedman is representing Eilish Morley in her lawsuit against the MoD, Chief Constable and Peter Keeley.
Her son Eoin was shot dead by IRA men who dragged him his girlfriend’s house in the Derrybeg estate, Newry on Easter Sunday 1990.
He had been a member of the Irish People’s Liberation Organisation (IPLO), a splinter republican paramilitary organisation.
A subsequent investigation by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan concluded that the RUC failed to properly investigate Morley’s killing.
However, she also found there had been no effort by police to instigate a feud between the IRA and IPLO.
Mr Keeley is believed to have already infiltrated the Provisionals on behalf of MI5 at the time of the murder.
One of the other actions is a claim brought by Terence McCafferty against the Secretary of State for unlawful detention.
Following submissions Mr Justice Stephens decided to hear the CMP application in Mr McCafferty’s case first.
He will hear arguments first in open court, then in private session, over two days in January.
The judge also selected the Keeley and Morley actions for similar hearings in February.
He told lawyers: “These cases will have priority in my commitments, and I would expect there would be a degree of priority on the part of counsel.”