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Barrister insists PSNI is fit to look into claims that Army killed mum

By Alan Erwin

Published 09/09/2016

Family members of Jean Smyth attend Belfast High Court yesterday
Family members of Jean Smyth attend Belfast High Court yesterday
A funeral card for mum-of-one Jean Smyth

The PSNI has the independence required for a new investigation into the suspected military killing of a woman in west Belfast more than 40 years ago, the High Court heard yesterday.

Counsel for the Chief Constable insisted that the force was "institutionally distinct" from its predecessor amid claims that RUC officers may have colluded to prevent undercover soldiers being implicated in the shooting of Jean Smyth.

A judge was also told the allegations of potential police involvement in a cover-up were assumption and speculation.

Mrs Smyth, a 24-year-old mother-of-one, was killed by a single shot to the head as she sat in a car on the Glen Road in June 1972.

At the time, the RUC informed her family that it was probably an IRA gunman who opened fire.

But records uncovered at the National Archives in Kew, London, two years ago suggested the Army's Military Reaction Force (MRF) fired shots in the area and was allegedly involved in the killing, a judge was told.

Mrs Smyth's family have issued judicial review proceedings amid claims the PSNI lacks the necessary impartiality to carry out a fresh probe.

The family's legal team contend that new evidence links the State's own agents to the killing of an innocent citizen.

It was claimed that police and Army officers may have concealed the truth about the shooting for more than 40 years.

Responding on behalf of the Chief Constable, Tony McGleenan QC argued that the family's challenge should "fall at the first hurdle".

"There's high authority in support of our proposition that the PSNI is institutionally distinct from the RUC," he said.

"Given that the RUC were not institutionally connected to those implicated in the events, we say that the applicant faces the steepest of uphill climbs to make good the case that there's a lack of independence."

During exchanges Mr Justice Maguire questioned why previous investigations into Mrs Smyth's death did not examine possible military involvement.

He described inadequacies in the original probe and a subsequent review carried out by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team as "troubling".

According to Mr McGleenan, that was why the Chief Constable recognised the case required analysis by the force's Legacy Investigation Branch.

He also claimed that the applicant's lawyers were attempting to show "through assumption, speculation and tracking through documents that there was RUC collusive involvement".

The hearing continues.

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