Northern Ireland

Hooded Men fear case will be ‘swept under the carpet’

14 Catholic men say they were ‘tortured’ more than 50 years ago

Hooded Men Jim Auld and Liam Shannon talk. Picture by Hugh Russell
Hooded Men Jim Auld and Liam Shannon. Picture by Hugh Russell

Members of the group known as the Hooded Men have voiced concern that their case will be “swept under the carpet” when the British government’s controversial Legacy Act comes into force in May.

Jim Auld and Liam Shannon are among a group of 14 Catholic men subjected to what many regard as state-sanctioned torture when they were held without charge during internment in 1971.

The ‘five techniques’ used against the 14 men included being hooded, made to stand in stress positions, forced to listen to loud static noise and being deprived of sleep, food and water.

In 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the methods used “would be characterised today” as torture.

It also concluded that the PSNI was wrong not to investigate allegations of torture in the case.

Plans by former Operation Kenova head Jon Boutcher, who is now PSNI chief constable, to investigate the case were later halted.

A review, rather than an investigation, was later put in place by the PSNI.

However, Mr Auld and Mr Shannon say they have no faith in the process and have voiced concern that their case will not be properly dealt with.

The Legacy Act will effectively end Troubles investigations and after May 1 all conflict-related matters will fall to the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery.

Mr Shannon said he is concerned his case will be “swept under the carpet”.

“It will be lost in the Legacy Act,” he said.

Mr Auld urged the chief constable to upgrade the review to an investigation.

“Open up the investigation as to what happened, so it can’t fall into the legacy legislation,” he said.

Mr Auld said that despite numerous court hearings over the years little has been achieved.

“We have been fighting this for 53 years and have won many court cases,” he said.

“We haven’t got any further on with it, not got anything out of it.

“Torture is still being practised all over the world and nothing is being done about it.”

Mr Shannon added that both men “would love our day in court to get it there – “what happened to us and who was involved.”

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher
Chief Constable Jon Boutcher (Liam McBurney/PA)

Both men believe Mr Boutcher was “being held in place by the bureaucracy of the PSNI, whose sole function is to close legacy down”.

The men referred to the recent Operation Kenova report into the activities of the agent known as Stakeknife, which was launched by Mr Boutcher and others earlier this month.

Mr Shannon said he was struck by the references to people being abducted and tortured.

“They forgot about 14 men who were abducted and brought to a purpose-built torture centre and tortured,” he said.

“The whole thing is cloaked in secrecy.”

Both Hooded Men have previously raised concerns that the ‘torture’ techniques used again them are inflicted on others by governments across the globe, including in Gaza.

Mr Auld and Mr Shannon say they would welcome a meeting with Mr Boutcher to highlight their concerns.

Solicitor Kevin Winters said: “Like so many other Conflict-related victims, the draconian impact of the Legacy Act serves to deny closure to the Hooded Men . They got half an apology.”

They need a full apology from the Governnment now "

The PSNI was contacted.