A police decision to end preliminary inquiries into suspected government-sanctioned torture of 14 men during internment is to be quashed, a judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Maguire, at Belfast’s High Court said research to establish any criminality around their 1971 interrogation was too narrow and lacked focus, describing the situation as “a sorry state of affairs”.
The judge said that the decision to effectively end the inquiry “was seriously flawed”.
But he rejected related claims that the state was in breach of a legal obligation to carry out a full, independent investigation of the so-called Hooded Men’s treatment, because the events occurred decades before the Human Rights Act came into force.
The men had described being hooded, forced into stress positions, forced to listen to constant loud noise, deprived of sleep, and deprived of food and water. The court was told in 1978 the European Court of Human Rights held the techniques fell short of torture.
Mr Justice Maguire said it “seems likely to the court that if the events here at issue were to be replicated today the outcome would probably be that the European Court of Human Rights would accept the description of torture in respect of these events as accurate”.
He added: “The court will declare that the decision made on behalf of the PSNI in October 2014 – in effect to take no further steps to investigate the question of identifying and, if appropriate, prosecuting those responsible for criminal acts – should be quashed.
“This will mean this question should be revisited. The court will not be prescriptive as to how this issue should be taken forward.”