Northern Ireland

Operation Kenova: Nuala O’Loan says it’s ‘hard to comprehend there wasn’t a single prosecution’

Says the British government “didn’t want prosecutions”

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.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Nuala O’Loan during the Operation Kenova report at Stormont Hotel last Friday. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

Former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan has said it is “hard to comprehend that there wasn’t a single prosecution” in relation to the Operation Kenova investigation.

Ms O’Loan also said that she believed Michelle O’Neill’s response to the report “was inadequate, was not an apology”.

An interim report published last week found that the actions of the British agent known as Stakeknife, probably cost more lives than he saved.

Operation Kenova was established in 2016 to investigate the alleged activities of British army agent in the IRA, Freddie Scappaticci, and those of former army and RUC intelligence handlers.

It recommended both the British government and the republican leadership, on behalf of the IRA, apologise to victims.

First Minister Michelle O’Neill said ‘we must never forget those who have died or been injured and their families’
First Minister Michelle O’Neill said ‘we must never forget those who have died or been injured and their families’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

Speaking after the report’s publication, First Minister Michelle O’Neill said past “injustices and tragedies” had left a “deep legacy of suffering and trauma” in society.

“We must never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families,” she said.



“I am sorry for all the lives lost during the conflict, without exception.”

But responding to Ms O’Neill’s statement, Ms O’Loan told the BBC: “I think there were an awful lot of words there, but I don’t think it was an apology for what happened in Stakeknife.

“I think it was a general statement about what happened during the Troubles.

“It was not the apology which was called for in terms of the apology by the IRA. That is what was asked for and that is what should come.

“This sort of general statement about ‘sorry for all the lives lost’ - that does not go to apologise for abduction, torture and murder conducted by this character Stakeknife with the state sitting aside and allowing it in some cases to happen and that is the apology which is required.”

Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk           8-2-2024
Alfredo Scappaticci the former provisional IRA informer codenamed Stakeknife.
The PPS today said thatas a result of Operation Kenova there would be no prosecutions mounted against four people including 2 former military intelligence officers and two IRA members.
West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci died in 2023. PICTURE: ALAN LEWIS/ PHOTOPRESS BELFAST

Ms O’Loan, an adviser to Operation Kenova, said Ms O’Neill’s statement was “inadequate, was not an apology and did not identify what had happened at the hands of Stakeknife and those who worked with him”.

Ms O’Loan also criticised the decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) not to pursue any prosecutions.

Solicitor Kevin Winters represents families directly impacted by the Operation Kenova report.

The PPS has said it considered a large volume of material and information contained in files submitted by Operation Kenova in relation to 28 people.

But it concluded there was “insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction”.

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.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher , Deputy Chief Constable Chris Todd and Sir Iain Livingstone , Nuala O’Loan  and Judith Thompson speak to the media during the Operation Kenova report at Stormont Hotel on Friday. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

However, Ms O’Loan said the “view of the very senior detectives who conducted the investigation of these cases was that there was very strong evidence”.

“I think the prosecution service received the first files in 2019, where I think a total of some 31 files....they quite simply did not produce a prosecutorial decision and when they did produce a prosecutorial decision, it was for no prosecution after years of sitting holding the file.”

Ms O’Loan also said she believes it “takes far too long to make a prosecution decision...we have a very dysfunctional prosecution service”.

“My observation would be that the government did not have any incentive to further fund the prosecution service because I don’t think the government wanted any more prosecutions,” she said.

“The government didn’t want prosecutions and the money wasn’t available for the PPS and the PPS didn’t make decisions.”

She added: “We certainly saw it as compelling evidence for prosecution and the group on which I sat was a group of international police chiefs...the view was there was compelling evidence.

“The PPS have not really explained what they said and it would be interesting to know why there was not a prosecution is a single case.”

She added: “It is hard to comprehend that there wasn’t a single prosecution in any of the case files that was submitted to the PPS”.

The PPS has been contacted for comment.