Third of cases referred by Barra McGrory are security force incidents

Director of Public Prosecution Barra McGrory
Director of Public Prosecution Barra McGrory

One third of cases which Northern Ireland’s director of public prosecutions has referred to police to investigate relate to Troubles incidents involving security force members.

In six of the 18 times since 2011, Barra McGrory QC has used his power to ask the region’s police chief for further information involved allegations regarding state actors in legacy cases, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said.

The information was released to the Press Association amid an ongoing political debate around whether retired soldiers and police officers are being treated unfairly by the criminal justice system.

Three other cases where Mr McGrory has referred a case under Section 35 (5) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 relate to the notorious IRA double agent Stakeknife. The other nine referrals relate to non-legacy cases.

Last week, prosecutors revealed they had pursued five times more prosecutions against alleged paramilitaries than soldiers in the last five years.

Since November 2011, when Mr McGrory took office, the PPS has taken decisions to prosecute seven Troubles-related cases linked to republicans, three linked to loyalists and two involving the military.

In the same period, there was a decision to pursue a prosecution in a case linked to alleged police criminality, but that was later dropped.

The PSNI has also taken steps to set out a factual context in the face of claims the authorities are pursuing a witch-hunt.

Countering allegations that 90% of resources in its Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) were concentrated on cases involving security force members, the PSNI last week released figures showing the proportion was closer to 30%.

Outlining the figures in relation to referrals to the chief constable, a spokesman for the PPS said: “The Public Prosecution Service, in the exercising of its functions, is obliged to consider referrals which come from various sources including the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General and the Coroner, and this may result in a request for information to the chief constable.

“There have been 18 such requests since 2011 and each seeks information on matters that appear to the director to need investigation on the ground that it may involve an offence committed against the law of Northern Ireland as set out under the provisions of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002, Section 35 (5).

“Nine of these relate to non-legacy cases and the range of possible offences for investigation have included perjury and fraud, with most arising from other court proceedings.

“Nine relate to what have been described as legacy cases.

“These have been referred to the PPS by others within the criminal justice system including the Attorney General, the Police Ombudsman and the Court of Appeal, with the exception of a case involving the alleged activities of the Military Reaction Force (now defunct Army unit), which came to light in a Panorama investigation.

“Three of these requests are linked to an individual involved in republican paramilitary activity known as Stakeknife.

“The remaining six requests relate to the conduct of State actors, five of which are in the context of a fatality.”

The PPS spokesman added: “It is understood that the Legacy Investigation Branch of the PSNI is currently investigating two of the requests and a further two are under preliminary examination.

“Three legacy requests are being investigated by Bedfordshire Police and one request is being investigated by Police Scotland.”