The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was wrong not to investigate allegations of torture in the case of the “Hooded Men”, the Supreme Court has ruled.
Delivering the judgment on Wednesday, Lord Hodge said the police decision taken after allegations were broadcast in an RTE documentary was “irrational” and should be quashed
The 14 hooded men were subjected to a series of controversial interrogation techniques when they were interned without trial by the Army in Northern Ireland in 1971.
The techniques included hooding and being put in stress positions, forced to listen to white noise and deprived of sleep, food and water.
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.
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 after failing 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.
Lord Hodge said: “There is no evidence that anyone involved in the authorisation or operation of the hooded men’s ill-treatment has ever been the subject of criminal charges.”
Delivering his judgment, he referred to a 2014 RTE documentary about the hooded men case which included 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 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.”
Darragh Mackin, a solicitor for the majority of the “hooded men”, 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.”
However, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is not sufficiently independent to carry out a new investigation into the hooded men case.
Lord Hodge said: “In our view, it has not been established that the LIB (Legacy Investigations Branch) is not capable of carrying out an effective investigation on the basis either of institutional or hierarchical connection or that it is not capable of conducting an investigation with practical independence.
“There is nothing to suggest that it would not be possible to assign appropriate officers of the PSNI to carry out any further investigations to a proper standard.”