Northern Ireland news

PSNI 'pause' work linked to planned Hooded Men review

The Hooded Men following a previous hearing at the High Court in Belfast. The group were interned in 1971 and say they were tortured during their imprisonment. Picture by Hugh Russell..

MEMBERS of the group known as the Hooded Men are planning to take legal action after the PSNI suspended work linked to an independent review of their case.

In a letter to Operation Kenova Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said police believed it was appropriate to "pause" the work ahead of a Supreme Court hearing later this year.

The Hooded Men include 14 Catholic men from across the north who say they were subjected to state-sanctioned torture when they were interned in 1971.

The techniques used on them 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 some cases the men were also thrown from helicopters they were told were hundreds of feet in the air despite being just feet from the ground.

In 2019 the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled an investigation must be carried out into their treatment.

The majority ruling came after an appeal by the chief constable against a previous High Court judgment that the PSNI must investigate the unlawful treatment of the men.

The matter was later brought to the Supreme Court by the police.

The Hooded Men and a second case are due to be heard in June and both will consider the independence of the PSNI.

Operation Kenova, which is headed by former English police chief Jon Boutcher, had been working to establish a terms of reference for any future review.

However, the PSNI has now said that in recent days it has taken advice from counsel in respect of the June hearing.

Mr Hamilton wrote: "Given the current circumstances the PSNI consider that it is appropriate to pause the work which has been undertaken towards the possible establishment of a review into the Hooded Men, until the Supreme Court decisions are available," he said.

"The judgments in those appeals are likely to provide assistance to all parties and also to many other families about the scope and nature of the police service's obligations and our independence and is also likely to inform the scope of any Hooded Men review".

In a joint statement two of the Hooded Men, Jim Auld and Liam Shannon, last night said: “This latest news is unacceptable - its also insulting to make us wait like this - reluctantly we have little option but to engage in litigation yet again but its needed.”

Their solicitor, Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, said: “The unwelcome intervention of the PSNI to delay an investigation into the Hooded Men case by Operation Kenvoa must be challenged.

"Our clients have a right to truth, and a right to hold those responsible to account despite the passage of time.”

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