Northern Ireland

IRA man’s widow to launch legal action over decision not to prosecute anyone following Operation Kenova probe

Anthony Braniff was shot dead by the Provisionals in September 1981 after being branded an informer

Anthony Braniff
Anthony Braniff

The widow of an IRA man whose murder was investigated as part of the £40m Operation Kenova has launched legal action over the decision not to prosecute anyone in connection with the killing.

Anthony Braniff (22) was shot dead by the Provisionals in September 1981 after being branded an informer.

His death featured in a seven-year probe into the activities of IRA executioner and British Army agent Stakeknife, widely believed to have been west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci.

In February this year the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed no-one will face any criminal charges following the Kenova investigation.

Kenova package
Kenova package Freddie Scappaticci who died last year

Mr Braniff’s widow, Mary, has now lodged papers at the High Court in Belfast seeking a judicial review of the decision not to prosecute anyone in relation to his case.

Her lawyers claim it was irrational, breached human rights standards and failed to properly assess potential health and safety offences.

Solicitor Kevin Winters of KRW Law said: “It will be a travesty if after seven years and £40m worth of investigative work there isn’t a single prosecution arising out of Kenova.

“This challenge is an attempt to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Scappaticci, who died last year, was linked to more than a dozen murders during his time as a member of the IRA’s internal security unit (ISU).

Known as the “nutting squad”, the ISU was set up to interrogate and kill suspected security force informers.

Mr Braniff, a father-of-three from the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, was one of those murdered by the unit.

In a report published last month, Operation Kenova found that Stakeknife probably cost more lives than he saved while working as a British spy at the heart of the IRA.

By that stage the investigation team, led by current PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, had referred files on former IRA members and soldiers to the PPS.

The Operation Kenova report at Stormont Hotel on Friday. The investigation took seven years to examine the activities of agent "Stakeknife", who was Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci.
Chief Constable Jon Boutcher  speaks to the media during the Operation Kenova report at Stormont Hotel.

But the prosecuting authority concluded there was insufficient evidence for a reasonable prospect of securing convictions on any potential offences.

Mrs Braniff wants the court to quash the decision not to prosecute anyone over her husband’s killing.

Despite acknowledging the evidential threshold required, her legal representatives contend that the bar was reached.

“At the very least there ought to have been an assessment of breaches of health and safety provisions,” Mr Winters claimed.

“If this was in London the Crown Prosecution Service would have had no difficulty in prosecuting.

“But this is Belfast so there won’t be any prosecutions on anything that touches upon state collusion.”