Northern Ireland

Jean Smyth-Campbell killing: Supreme Court backs earlier ruling on PSNI independence

Jean Smyth-Campbell was killed as she sat in a car on the Glen Road in June 1972
Jean Smyth-Campbell was killed as she sat in a car on the Glen Road in June 1972 Jean Smyth-Campbell was killed as she sat in a car on the Glen Road in June 1972

THE Supreme Court in London has backed an earlier court ruling around the suspected military killing of a woman in west Belfast 47 years ago.

The Court of Appeal found in 2019 that the PSNI Chief Constable had not shown that a legacy unit within his force had the practical independence for a new probe into the killing of Jean Smyth-Campbell.

The 24-year-old mother-of-one was killed by a single shot to the head as she sat in a car on the Glen Road in June 1972.

The British Army's Military Reaction Force unit has been suspected of involvement.

The case before the Supreme Court centred on whether the PSNI was sufficiently independent to investigate the killing.

Lord Hodge, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Kitchin, Lord Sales, Lord Hamblen, Lord Leggatt and Lord Burrows heard legal submissions earlier this year.

The Supreme Court yesterday backed the Court of Appeal's ruling.

Lord Hodge said: "The Court of Appeal would have been entitled to conclude that the then proposed investigation into Ms Smyth's death would not have been effective in the particular circumstances of that case because the chief constable of the PSNI had failed to explain to her family and the public, and when faced with the judicial review challenge, the court, how he proposed to secure the practical independence of that investigation."

A fresh examination is being conducted by Jon Boutcher, the former chief constable of Bedfordshire.

Ms Smyth-Campbell's sister Margaret McQuillan said her family felt "vindicated".

"They have confirmed the Police Service of Northern Ireland's failings in the case," she said.

"The PSNI have already apologised for these failings.

"Despite our family’s victory however, we are disappointed by some of the general issues of law Jean’s case dealt with.

"We have already won our battle against the PSNI and the British Government for a new investigation and it is well underway.

"However, every other family deserves the same, every family’s grief is the same, no matter what their background."

The family's solicitor, Niall Ó Murchú, of Kinnear and Co Solicitors, said the British government's legacy plans will hurt victims.

Speaking on behalf of the Charity Paper Trail, Ciarán MacAirt, who in 2014 discovered the British Army documents which led to the court case, said: "Jean’s family are an inspiration to families who lost loved ones during the conflict.

"Their battle for truth and justice is a beacon for us all."