Promoting Justice /
Protecting Rights

UK Supreme Court quashes ‘irrational’ PSNI decision not to further investigate allegations UK Ministers authorised the use of torture in the ‘Hooded Men’ cases

The UK Supreme Court has found that the decision of the PSNI not to investigate an allegation that senior UK government ministers authorised the use of torture in the ‘Hooded Men’ cases was “irrational and falls to be quashed”.

The judgment follows a judicial review challenge taken by CAJ on behalf of Mary McKenna, the daughter of Sean McKenna, one of the Hooded Men, who died in 1975 as direct result of his torture.  Mr McGuigan, one of the Hooded Men, was also an applicant.

The reason for the finding was the Supreme Court’s conclusion that the report of an investigation conducted on behalf of the Chief Constable into the implications of a Memorandum written by the then Home Secretary, Merlyn Rees, to the then Prime Minister was “seriously flawed.”

The Rees Memo had stated 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 Defence”.

This Memo was made public in an RTÉ documentary, The Torture Files, in 2014. At a subsequent Policing Board meeting, the PSNI said it would seek to confirm or clarify the document’s contents. An investigator from Historical Enquiries Team (HET) reported back that “I did not discover any documentation which linked Lord Carrington to matters of ‘torture’.”

The Supreme Court concluded that his conclusions were “seriously flawed” for two reasons. First, because he had only looked for documents which explicitly authorised the use of the word ‘torture’. The Supreme Court held that to “expect the authorisation of torture to be described so explicitly” was “unrealistic”.

Second, the Court accepted CAJ’s submission that the report demonstrated a lack of fairness on its face and “a willingness to base conclusions on partisan assumptions rather than evidence”, and went on to find that, on the part of the investigator, the “lack of professionalism and impartiality discredited the work done”.

The Court stated that the “upshot is that the decision taken by the PSNI . . . on the basis of such a seriously flawed report was irrational and should not be allowed to stand”.

CAJ solicitor Gemma McKeown said, “We will now be urging the Chief Constable to fully and impartially investigate whether torture was authorised by senior government ministers.”

Mary McKenna, daughter of Sean McKenna, stated, “It is over 50 years since my father and the other men were tortured and it is time now for the truth to come out through a proper investigation.”

Please direct media enquiries to Robyn Scott, Communications & Equality Coalition Coordinator on or 075 1994 1203.

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