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'Hooded Men' granted judicial review as they clear first stage in legal battle

By Alan Erwin

Published 04/06/2015

Primary school teacher wins her appeal against being convicted of a classroom assault on an eight-year-old pupil.
Primary school teacher wins her appeal against being convicted of a classroom assault on an eight-year-old pupil.

A group of men who claim they were interned and tortured in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago have cleared the first stage in a legal battle to have their case fully investigated.

Lawyers representing the so-called "Hooded Men" were granted leave to seek a judicial review at the High Court in Belfast.

Action is being taken against the Chief Constable, Secretary of State and the Department of Justice over alleged failures to properly probe and order a full inquiry.

Fourteen men claimed they were subjected to torture techniques after being held without trial back in 1971.

They said they were forced to listen to constant loud static noise, deprived of sleep, food and water, forced to stand in a stress position and beaten if they fell.

The men were hooded and thrown to the ground from helicopters taking them to an interrogation centre, according to their case.

Despite being at near ground level, they had been told they were hundreds of feet in the air.

In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights held that the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment - but fell short of making a finding of torture.

Last year the Irish Government decided to ask the ECHR to revise its judgment.

In a further legal move eleven of the men have now come together in a bid to force a full inquiry.

Separate proceedings have also been lodged by the daughter of Sean McKenna, another of the group whose death has been blamed on his treatment.

Many of those taking legal action were in court today as Mr Justice Treacy was told their application for leave to seek a judicial review was not being opposed.

Tony McGleenan QC, for for the Secretary of State and Chief Constable, said: "That doesn't say we will not resist the issues on the merits.

"It's a recognition that there are issues requiring to be explored."

Lawyers then debated whether one of the two cases should be advanced first.

Karen Quinlivan QC argued that Mr McKenna's claim was more wide-ranging, involved a right to life as well as freedom from torture, and should take priority.

"Mr McKenna died as a result of ill-treatment, that's the evidence before the court," she said.

But Hugh Southey QC, whose client Francis McGuigan is backed by 10 of the others, claimed it would be wrong for their claim to be put on hold.

"The hooded men who are alive and actively participating in the litigation are essentially all backing the McGuigan litigation," he said.

"They are, if their claims are accepted, potential victims of very serious state ill-treatment.

"To cut them out of the case would be wrong."

Granting leave to seek a judicial review in both applications, Mr Justice Treacy ruled they should proceed "in tandem".

He listed the cases for full hearing over four days starting on November 30.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin of KRW Law, who represent Mr McGuigan and the other Hooded Men, confirmed they want the British government compelled to establish an independent investigation.

"The demand is for a statutory investigation into the use of torture by British security forces, including the RUC, during the period of internment and after and that this investigation must comply with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights," he said.

"We argue that the PSNI is not able to conduct such an investigation independently and that the British government has an on-going duty to discharge its obligations toward The Hooded Men. 

"The fight to expose the wrongs committed against The Hooded Men continues until truth and justice will out."

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