Northern Ireland

Widow of IRA man secures High Court date to challenge decision not to prosecute anyone over killing

Anthony Braniff (22) was shot dead 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 £40 million Operation Kenova has secured a date for her High Court challenge to the decision not to prosecute anyone over 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.

Mr Braniff’s widow, Mary, claims the decision not to prosecute anyone in relation to his case was irrational, breached human rights standards and failed to properly assess potential health and safety offences.

Her solicitor, Kevin Winters of KRW Law, confirmed an application for judicial review has been listed for hearing in October.

He said: “Our challenge relates to the refusal of the PPS to consider systemic failings at a higher corporate level within the security services in connection with intelligence handling.

“Such oversight was at least negligent and at worst intentional. It led directly or indirectly to death.”

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 March, an Operation Kenova report 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.

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

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

According to her lawyer, the case also has wider significance to more families of alleged victims of Stakeknife.

“The otherwise positive out workings of Kenova have been undermined by the complete shut down on prosecutions,” Mr Winters said.

“We hope to address that justice deficit in taking this judicial review.

“The full legacy of Kenova will remain in a state of flux until there is transparency and accountability by state agencies through the criminal process.”