UK court finds PSNI decision to cease investigation into ‘hooded men’ case unlawful

The 'hooded men' were subjected to a series of controversial interrogation techniques when they were interned without trial by the British army.
UK court finds PSNI decision to cease investigation into ‘hooded men’ case unlawful

David Young, PA

The UK Supreme Court in London has ruled that a decision by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to discontinue an investigation into the torture of the 'hooded men' was unlawful.

The seven justices ruled on the matter relating to a decision made by the North's police service in 2014 regarding the 1971 case.

The 'hooded men' were subjected to a series of controversial interrogation techniques when they were interned without trial by the British army.

The techniques included hooding and being put in stress positions, forced to listen to white noise and deprived of sleep, food and water.

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The PSNI took the case to the UK’s highest court having failed in Belfast’s Court of Appeal to overturn a High Court ruling (Niall Carson/PA)

They were also thrown from helicopters that were hovering close to the ground having been told the aircraft were hundreds of feet in the air.

According to The Irish Times, the court said the treatment of the men would today be characterised as torture.

"It is likely that the deplorable treatment to which the ‘hooded men’ were subjected at the hands of the security forces would be characterised today, applying the standards of 2021, as torture. There is a growing body of high judicial authority in support of this view."

The headstone of Jean Smyth-Campbell in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast
The headstone of Jean Smyth in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lord Hodge, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Kitchin, Lord Sales, Lord Hamblen, Lord Leggatt and Lord Burrows heard three days of submissions on the matter in June of this year, also hearing arguments relating to the killing of a Catholic woman, Jean Smyth (24), in Belfast in 1972.

The European Court of Human Rights previously ruled that while the men suffered inhumane and degrading treatment, it fell short of torture.

The PSNI took the case to the UK’s highest court having failed in Belfast’s Court of Appeal to overturn a High Court ruling that found the police should revisit its decision to end its investigation into the treatment of the men.

Delivering his judgment on Wednesday, Lord Hodge referred to a 2014 RTÉ documentary about the 'hooded men' case which referred to a British government memorandum, known as the 'Rees Memo', which “referred to the use of torture and to its approval by UK ministers”.

Following the broadcast, the PSNI considered whether there was sufficient evidence to warrant a new investigation, but concluded that there was not.

Lord Hodge said: “The court finds that the PSNI’s decision taken on 17 October 2014 not to investigate further the allegation in the Rees Memo was based on a seriously flawed report, was therefore irrational, and falls to be quashed.”

'Landmark victory'

The solicitor for the majority of the “hooded men” said the ruling was a “landmark victory”.

Darragh Mackin said: “Today’s decision is a landmark victory for the hooded men.

“Since 2014, they have actively contested the decision by the PSNI not to investigate the allegations of torture.

"It was always clear that the initial investigation by the PSNI was nothing more than a window dressing exercise."

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