Northern Ireland news

Widow of Official IRA commander launches civil action against PSNI

Joe McCann was killed in 1972. Picture from McCann family handout/PA Wire

THE widow of an Official IRA commander has launched civil action against the PSNI, alleging investigative failings resulted in two former paratroopers being acquitted of his murder.

Joe McCann (24) was shot in disputed circumstances in the Markets area of Belfast in April 1972.

Earlier this year, the trial of two British Army veterans accused of his murder, known as Soldiers A and C, collapsed after key prosecution evidence was ruled inadmissible.

Deficiencies were identified in how their original statements were taken by Royal Military Police in the aftermath of the shooting.

Answers provided by the ex-servicemen to police legacy unit, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), in 2010 were also excluded.

The trial judge questioned why the re-examination of the case did not prompt a fresh investigation by the PSNI, with the veterans interviewed under caution for the specific offence of murder.

Such a course of action may have made a prosecution more sustainable, he suggested.

Mr McCann's widow, Anne, is now seeking damages against the Chief Constable for alleged misfeasance in public office, negligence and breach of human rights.

Papers lodged at the High Court claim police adopted a flawed policy towards the shooting, with no-one ever properly interviewed under caution.

Mrs McCann's solicitor, Gary Duffy of KRW Law, contended: "The RUC and later PSNI never held an effective criminal justice investigation into the death and the offences or murder or attempted murder".

At the time of his death Mr McCann was one of the Official IRA's most prominent activists. He had been attempting to evade arrest when paratroopers opened fire at Joy Street.

Now aged in their 70s, Soldiers A and C, both pleaded not guilty to his murder.

During their trial it was established that they had been ordered to make the 1972 statements, which were not conducted under caution.

The judge rejected Crown submissions that those accounts became admissible when the defendants adopted and accepted them during their subsequent engagement with the HET.

Part of the civil action involves a claim that the 2010 review was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

It is also being contended that at the time of Mr McCann's death the RUC wrongly delegated responsibility for investigating military shootings to the British Army.

"This unlawful policy ensured that soldiers would be protected from effective investigation or prosecution for unlawful acts leading to injury or death," Mr Duffy alleged.

"This made it inevitable that soldiers would be emboldened to open fire on civilians in circumstances that were unlawful, leading to unlawful injury and death."

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