UK government given six days to provide ‘hooded men’ affidavit

Judge tells Theresa Villiers ‘the limits of the court’s tolerance have been arrived at’

Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has less than a week to provide a sworn document in a legal action over the alleged internment and torture of a group of men more than 40 years ago. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has less than a week to provide a sworn document in a legal action over the alleged internment and torture of a group of men more than 40 years ago. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State has less than a week to provide a sworn document in a legal action over the alleged internment and torture of a group of men more than 40 years ago, a High Court judge in Belfast ordered today.

With lawyers for the so-called “hooded men” threatening possible contempt proceedings over any further alleged delays in the case, Mr Justice Maguire set a March 24th deadline for Theresa Villiers to file an affidavit.

He said: “We have reached a position in this case where the limits of the court’s tolerance have been arrived at.”

The UK Government, police and the Department of Justice at Stormont are all facing a legal challenge over the failure to investigate torture claims.

The case involves 14 men arrested at the height of the Troubles and interned without trial back in 1971. They said they were subjected to constant loud static noise, deprived of sleep, food and water, forced to stand in a stress position and beaten if they fell.

The men were hooded and thrown to the ground from helicopters taking them to an interrogation centre, according to their case. Despite being at near ground level, they had been told they were hundreds of feet in the air.

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

In 2014 the Irish Government decided to ask the ECHR to revise its judgment.

Some of the men have now come together in a bid to force a full inquiry.

Separate judicial review proceedings have also been lodged by the daughter of Sean McKenna, another of the group whose death has been blamed on his treatment.

Eight of those taking legal action were in court today as their lawyers accused the government of unacceptable delays in lodging papers for the judicial review.

Following submissions Mr Justice Maguire said previous pledges to meet dates in the case had been “somewhat devalued by non-compliance”.

Ordering the affidavit to be lodged next week, he added: “If there’s a failure to comply it will be open to the applicants’ to make any suitable application by way of enforcement of the court’s order.”