Shropshire Star

Prosecutions ruled out after latest consideration of Stakeknife probe files

Operation Kenova investigated the activities of an Army agent within the Provisional IRA.

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The crest of the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast

No prosecutions are to be pursued following the latest consideration of files from a major investigation into a top Army agent within the Provisional IRA.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it has given thorough and careful consideration to five files concerning 16 individuals reported by Operation Kenova, which probed the activities of the agent known as Stakeknife.

These individuals include one police officer and six military personnel.

Stakeknife worked in the IRA’s notorious “nutting squad”, interrogating suspected informers during the Troubles.

Kenova examined crimes such as murder and torture linked to Stakeknife and the role played by the security services, including MI5.

In a statement on Wednesday, the PPS said it has concluded there is insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for any of those reported.

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Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said the decisions were taken independently and impartially by an experienced team (Liam McBurney/PA)

In total the PPS received 26 files in relation to the operation.

In October 2020, it said a decision had been taken not to prosecute four individuals reported, and earlier this year it announced a formal no decision outcome in relation to 10 of the files as they contained just one suspect who died in 2023.

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, who was alleged to have been Stakeknife, died in 2023. He had always denied the claims.

Decisions in relation to 21 individuals across 10 further files are expected to be announced in early 2024.

On Wednesday, the PPS said the latest announcement relates to one police officer and six military personnel in connection with allegations of perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.

The files also related to three civilian suspects in connection with a murder in 1981, two civilian suspects in connection with a murder in 1987, two civilian suspects in connection with a murder in 1993, and two civilian suspects in connection with the false imprisonment of, and conspiracy to murder, one victim in January 1990.

The PPS said victims and families directly related to the decisions have received a detailed written explanation of the reasons, along with an offer to meet to discuss the information provided.

Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said the decisions were taken independently and impartially by an experienced team of senior prosecutors, assisted by independent counsel.

“I acknowledge that today’s decisions will be a reminder of the painful and harrowing circumstances of how some Operation Kenova families lost a loved one, and we are seeking to minimise any further trauma caused by revisiting these cases publicly,” he said.

“I can assure victims, families and the wider public that all prosecution decisions were taken carefully, impartially and wholly independently.

“The challenges in prosecuting legacy cases are well known. The events with which these decisions are concerned took place several decades ago and the witness and forensic evidence available was limited.

“A significant body of the material that prosecutors considered included intelligence records. For reasons which we have sought to explain in detail in the public statement, it was not possible to use this material in these cases in order to bring prosecutions.

“Such material may, however, allow Operation Kenova to form a view as to what happened in particular cases and in providing answers to the questions that families may have about the circumstances in which they lost their loved one.”

Solicitor Kevin Winters, whose firm KRW Law, acts for families affected, said they will seek a review of the decisions by the PPS.

However he said the decisions came as “no surprise” to the families following the death of Mr Scappaticci earlier this year.

He also queried when the public report following Operation Kenova will be published.

The investigation was led by former Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher, who is now chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Mr Boutcher indicated last month that he handed over the report before his recent appointment, and believes it is ready to be published.

Mr Winter said on Wednesday: “More generally today’s announcement upscales pressure on Kenova to deliver answers for families and other victims via its long-awaited public facing report.

“The termination of any potential criminal inquisition into the so-called Stakeknife affair only heightens expectations for delivery of truth and justice in pending private family reports .

“After today’s set back its really the very least the next of kin and others can expect.”

Meanwhile, DUP MLA Emma Little-Pengelly said the latest PPS decision will disappoint.

“This announcement will obviously be disappointing and painful for the families involved. Once again, justice will be denied,” she said.

“The scale of Operation Kenova once again reiterates just how widespread the infiltration of the republican movement was by the security services.

“Whilst Scappaticci may have been the focus of this investigation, the IRA and the wider republican movement was riddled with informants and there will be many within its ranks who do not want the full truth to be seen.”

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