North’s DPP announces independent review of Cahill case

Barra McGrory wants to see if there are ‘lessons to be learned’ in how prosecution service handled allegations

Maíria Cahill who has alleged she was raped by a suspected IRA member when she was a teenager in 1997. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Maíria Cahill who has alleged she was raped by a suspected IRA member when she was a teenager in 1997. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

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The North’s Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory has ordered an independent review into how the Public Prosecution Service handled the case of Maíria Cahill, the alleged victim of rape by a member of the IRA and of a subsequent IRA “interrogation”.

The DUP also tabled an Assembly motion yesterday calling for an inquiry into the allegations in last week’s BBC Spotlight programme, particularly focusing on comments last week by Sinn Féin junior minister Jennifer McCann.

Mr McGrory, who is head of the North’s Public Prosecution Service, made his announcement in the face of criticism of how both the PSNI and the service dealt with Ms Cahill’s allegations that she was raped by an IRA member and then subjected to an IRA “kangaroo court”.

Mr McGrory said the review “will consider all aspects of the prosecution” case and test whether “there are lessons to be learned”.

Ms Cahill alleged that in 1997 as a 16-year-old, she was raped by an IRA member, and that subsequently she was “interrogated” by IRA members who wanted to determine whether she or her alleged rapist was telling the truth. The alleged rapist and four IRA members who allegedly questioned her were all acquitted in separate cases after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence. Ms Cahill had complained that because the case took so long to complete – three years – she was unable to give evidence in court. She also said she feared giving evidence about her alleged rapist.

Mr McGrory said he believed that an “independent, external scrutiny of our processes and procedures” was warranted. “It is of concern to the PPS to maintain public confidence in our services and in the wider criminal justice system,” he said. “We understand how difficult it can be for victims and witnesses to come forward, particularly in cases involving sexual abuse offences and we will do all in our power to ensure that they and the wider public can feel confident in the independent role of the PPS.

“The PPS takes all of its decisions independently, applying the test for prosecution without fear or favour,” Mr McGrory added. “I consider that there are particular challenges in prosecuting complex and interlinked cases, as in this instance, involving serious sexual abuse and terrorist related charges and involving multiple complainants and multiple defendants.

“This independent review will consider all aspects of the prosecution of these cases and if there are lessons to be learned, we will do so, openly and transparently.”

Separately, the North’s Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire is investigating how the PSNI dealt with Ms Cahill’s allegations.

Meanwhile, the DUP has tabled an Assembly motion calling for an inquiry into Ms Cahill’s allegations on the Spotlight programme. The motion focuses on comments last week by Sinn Féin junior minister Jennifer McCann who said she learned of the allegations a number of years ago.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said the DUP motion was “a disgraceful attempt to score political points and has nothing at all to do with protecting victims of sexual abuse”.

“In the Maíria Cahill case, members of Sinn Féin including Jennifer McCann did their best to offer emotional and practical support to Ms Cahill,” he said.

“All of the Sinn Féin representatives named by Maíria have made it clear that they sought to help her and advised her to inform her parents, counsellors, social services or the police directly,” added the spokesman.

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