MI5 and MI6 have agreed to be central participants at an imminent inquiry into a paedophile ring at a notorious Belfast care home, the Court of Appeal heard today.
Counsel for the probe into the Kincora scandal also insisted it has been given unrestricted access to information and documents from government departments and agencies.
The disclosure came during continuing legal action by one victim over claims of state collision and the cover-up of sexual abuse throughout the 1970s in order to protect an intelligence-gathering operation.
Gary Hoy, 54, is seeking to overturn a ruling that the examination should remain within the current remit of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) sitting in Banbridge.
His legal team claim that investigation being chaired by Sir Anthony Hart lacks the power to properly scrutinise what went on at the home in east Belfast.
They contend that the present arrangements cannot compel the security services to hand over documents or testify.
Instead, they are seeking a declaration that Mr Hoy is entitled to an inquiry that meets his entitlements to freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is alleged that the security service shielded and blackmailed child sex abusers involved in the abuse at Kincora.
Calls for full scrutiny of the suspected systemic molestation and prostitution of vulnerable youngsters has grown ever since three senior staff were jailed in 1981 for abusing boys in their care.
It has long been suspected that well-known figures within the British establishment, including high-ranking civil servants and senior military officers, were involved.
Last month the High Court dismissed Mr Hoy’s legal challenge after finding it was premature.
But with Sir Anthony’s tribunal set to begin examining Kincora in just over a week, an urgent appeal against the verdict is underway.
Counsel for the HIA, Joseph Aiken, told judges attempts have been made through media commentary to undermine the inquiry’s probe into the home.
He said unrestricted access has been provided to all documents and information requested or considered relevant.
“If those documents or parts of those documents are not made public then the chairman has made it abundantly clear he will raise the red card,” Mr Aiken stressed.
The barrister went on to reveal who will have core participant status, allowing them legal representation at the hearings.
“The Kincora module will also have the PSNI, the Northern Ireland Office, the MoD (Ministry of Defence), the security service MI5, and the secret intelligence service MI6,” he confirmed.
“The latter four are non-devolved departments and agencies, they have accepted the designation of core participants before this inquiry and are working to the inquiry’s procedures.”
The three appeal judges, led by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, were told there are no plans to have any closed hearings into Kincora.
At one point Sir Declan emphasised the gravity of the allegations surrounding events at the home.
“If it’s the case that children in Northern Ireland were abused in circumstances where public authorities were aware of it and used it for the purpose of gathering or securing information that is so shocking that it needs to be exposed if it’s true,” he said.
“At the root that’s what this case is about, whether as a society we are grown up enough to recognise that we need to acknowledge if harm was caused to children in these circumstances.
“As a society we need to recognise it rather than sweep it under the carpet.”
During the hearing it also emerged that out of four individuals offered core participant status only one has accepted - Richard Kerr, another former resident at the home.
Mr Aiken said the other three had refused or “prevaricated” over becoming involved.
H identified one as being Brian Gemmell, a former military intelligence officer in Belfast who has previously spoken to the press about his willingness to offer information.
Asked what impediment would be caused to the inquiry’s work if an Article 3 obligation is identified, the barrister replied: “The spin that will be placed on that decision.
“It will be used to say ‘There you are, we told you the HIA inquiry is inadequate’.”
Reserving judgment in the appeal, Sir Declan pledged to give a decision as soon as possible.