State agents who had "outlived their usefulness" were among up to 50 people allegedly murdered by a British spy working inside the IRA known as Stakeknife, the High Court in Belfast has heard.
Lawyers for relatives of one victim, Caroline Moreland (34), told the court the PSNI lacks the "appetite" to investigate the activities of the army intelligence asset, who was identified in 2003 by the media as west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci. He denied he was the agent before leaving Belfast in 2003.
Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC in October called for police to examine Stakeknife's activities, along with what those of the then RUC Special Branch and MI5.
Ms Moreland’s family want an outside police force carry out the inquiry and are seeking judicial review proceedings on the matter.
Ms Moreland, a Catholic mother of three from Belfast, was abducted and murdered by the IRA in July 1994 for allegedly being a British informant.
Her children’s legal action seeks to secure a broad investigation into the circumstances surrounding a series of killings stretching back to the 1980s which were attributed to the IRA’s internal security team, or ‘Nutting Squad’.
At a previous hearing it was claimed that Scappaticci was permitted to engage in the campaign in order to strengthen his position as a British spy.
Barrister Sean Devine, for the Moreland family,on Tuesday set out the reasons for wanting an outside police force to examine the matters.
“One of the criticisms is the PSNI don’t have any appetite for this investigation because it will necessarily involve criticisms of the security forces,” he said.
He claimed delay has been used as a method of avoiding such criticism.
“The position is that the families of the various deceased, and we are talking in excess of maybe 50 murders have been reported, are awaiting answers for a very long time,” he said. “The core subject matter of this challenge is the use of a state agent to kill, amongst others, other state agents that had outlived their usefulness in the eyes of the authorities.”
He said the subject matter “couldn’t be any more poignant or important”.
Counsel for PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton indicated a final decision had still to be taken on how to respond to the DPP’s request.
Consenting a request by the Moreland family’s legal team, Mr Justice Maguire listed the application for leave to seek a judicial review for hearing in February.