Court told of potential conspiracy over Hooded Men “torture” methods

Posted By: April 21, 2018 Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, 21, 2018

NEWLY unearthed documents point to a potential conspiracy around British government ministers allegedly authorizing the torture of the so-called Hooded Men, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Senior judges were also told one of the group was forced to stand against a wall for 30 hours amid treatment amounting to criminal assaults during internment in Northern Ireland 47 years ago.

The PSNI is challenging a previous ruling that its decision to end preliminary inquiries into the deep interrogation methods deployed against the 14 men was seriously flawed and should be quashed.

Lawyers for the chief constable claim no fresh evidence has emerged which would trigger a legal obligation to continue inquiries and seek the prosecution of anyone who perpetrated offenses.

Five techniques were said to have been used against the men while they were held without trial – being hooded and made to stand in a stress position against a wall and beaten if they fell, forced to listen to the constant loud static noise, and deprived of sleep, food, and water.

Counsel for the daughter of Sean McKenna, one of the Hooded Men, countered that an unearthed memo from a former British minister should compel further investigation.

In 1977 Merlyn Rees, then home secretary, sent a letter to Prime Minister James Callaghan setting out his views on procedures deployed against the men, the court heard.

In the memo, he states it was his belief that “the decision to use methods of torture in Northern Ireland in 1971/72 was taken by ministers – in particular, Lord Carrington, then secretary of state for defense”.

The document, uncovered from the national archives in London, featured in an RTÉ documentary in 2014 and led to questions being raised

At the Northern Ireland Policing Board. Karen Quinlivan QC argued that the Rees memo is significant and publicly unavailable in the 1970s – triggering the investigative obligation.

Surviving members of the Hooded Men brought the original proceedings against the chief constable, secretary of state and department of justice after allegations of ministerial involvement emerged.

They argue the authorities have failed to comply with duties under the European Convention on Human Rights to properly probe and order a full inquiry into what happened to them while interned at British army facilities in Ballykelly.

Amid claims the men’s treatment was sanctioned by the state, the court heard former British prime minister Edward Heath was involved in the decision-making process.

Stormont’s prime minister at the time, Brian Faulkner, was also briefed on the deployment of the techniques, according to their case.

RUC Special Branch officers were said to have been taught the methods by soldiers but sought assurances of immunity from prosecution before carrying them out.

Lawyers representing the chief constable and the government insist Mr. Rees later modified his assessment of the Hooded Men’s treatment from torture to deep interrogation.

One of the challenges has been brought by Mary McKenna, who believes her father’s death in 1975 is linked to what he endured during


“The reality is that two of the five techniques at the very minimum involve criminal assaults,” her barrister told the three appeal judges.

“Wall-standing, in the case of Mr. McKenna for a period of 30 hours over the course of his detention, that’s recognized as unlawful.”

Ms. Quinlivan said: “In the 1970s it was not apparent to anyone that there was authorization by British ministers, as opposed to Mr. Faulkner, of a specific use of the five techniques.

“In fact, the opposite was being repeatedly stated – that ministers didn’t have a full grasp of what was going on.”

The appeal continues.