Alleged torture victims clear hurdle in bid for investigation

Fourteen men claim they were subjected to torture in NI after internment in 1971

Lawyers representing the so-called “Hooded Men” have been  granted leave to seek a judicial review at the High Court in Belfast. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Lawyers representing the so-called “Hooded Men” have been granted leave to seek a judicial review at the High Court in Belfast. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

A group of men who claim they were interned and tortured in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago have cleared the first stage in a legal battle to have their case fully investigated.

Lawyers representing the so-called “Hooded Men” were granted leave to seek a judicial review at the High Court in Belfast.

Action is being taken against the Police Chief Constable, British Secretary of State and the Department of Justice over alleged failures to properly investigate their case and order a full inquiry.

Fourteen men claimed they were subjected to torture techniques after being held without trial in 1971. They said they were forced to listen to constant loud static noise, deprived of sleep, food and water, forced to stand in a stress position and beaten if they fell.

Thrown from helicopters

According to their case, the men were hooded and thrown to the ground from helicopters. They were near to ground level when being thrown out, but were led to believe they were hundreds of feet in the air.

In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment - but fell short of making a finding of torture.

In 2012, 12 of the men took a case in the High Court urging the Dublin Government to seek a review of the ruling.

The men named in the case were Francis McGuigan, Jim Auld, Patrick McNally, Gerard McKerr, Liam Shannon, Kevin Hannaway, Michael Donnell, Brian Turley, Joe Clark, Paddy Joe McClean, Pat Shivers (deceased) and Michael Montgomery (deceased).

The Government subsequently decided to ask the ECHR to revise its judgment.

In a further legal move, eleven of the men have now come together in a bid to force a full inquiry. Separate proceedings have also been lodged by the daughter of Sean McKenna, another of the group whose death has been blamed on his treatment.

Many of those taking legal action were in court on Thursday as Mr Justice Treacy was told their application for leave to seek a judicial review was not being opposed.

‘Resist the issues’

Tony McGleenan QC, for for the Secretary of State and Chief Constable, said: “That doesn’t say we will not resist the issues on the merits.

“It’s a recognition that there are issues requiring to be explored.”

Lawyers then debated whether one of the two cases should be advanced first. Karen Quinlivan QC argued that Mr McKenna’s claim was more wide-ranging, involved a right to life as well as freedom from torture, and should take priority.

“Mr McKenna died as a result of ill-treatment, that’s the evidence before the court,” she said.

But Hugh Southey QC, whose client Francis McGuigan is backed by 10 of the others, claimed it would be wrong for their claim to be put on hold.

“The hooded men who are alive and actively participating in the litigation are essentially all backing the McGuigan litigation,” he said.

“They are, if their claims are accepted, potential victims of very serious state ill-treatment.

“To cut them out of the case would be wrong.”

Granting leave to seek a judicial review in both applications, Mr Justice Treacy ruled they should proceed “in tandem”. He listed the cases for full hearing over four days starting on November 30th.