Belfast Telegraph

IRA mole Martin McGartland's case against MI5 to be heard in secret

By John Aston

A damages claim brought by IRA mole Martin McGartland against the Government will be heard in secret, a senior judge has ruled.

Mr McGartland, together with his partner and carer Joanne Asher, are suing MI5 for breach of contract and negligence in his aftercare following a shooting by the IRA which left him unable to work.

The former RUC Special Branch agent claims the security services failed to provide care for post-traumatic stress disorder and access to disability benefits.

Mr Justice Mitting, sitting in London, said the case included a claim by Mr McGartland and his partner that "their protection was mishandled".

The judge said "sensitive material" relating to protection and the training of security service "handlers" arose in the case. He declared that Home Secretary Theresa May could use "closed material proceedings" (CMPs) in the interests of national security.

Mr McGartland blames "years of neglect" by MI5 for leaving him traumatised and unable to work because of his secret life.

The ruling means Mr McGartland (42) and his lawyers will not be able to hear parts of the case or to see "sensitive material". Special advocates will be appointed to protect his interests.

After the IRA unmasked him in 1991, Mr McGartland escaped from a kidnap by throwing himself through a third-floor window.

He had a second escape in 1999 when an IRA hit team tracked him down in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, where he was ambushed and shot seven times, leaving him with debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder.

During a confrontation with an IRA gunman, Mr McGartland put his hands over the gun barrel and sustained injuries to prevent his attacker firing into his upper body or head.

Powers to hold secret hearings were introduced in July 2013 so that trials using CMPs can take place in civil courts without damaging national security.

Mr McGartland's lawyers have described such procedures as "a serious aberration from the tradition of open justice".

They contend Mr McGartland's claim for damages for personal injury does not pose a risk to national security and will not expose any aspect of his undercover work as an informant against the IRA.

At a two-day hearing last month, Government lawyers told the court that an assurance of "secrecy forever" lies at the heart of the relationship between the British Security Service and its agents.

His lawyers have complained that, because of the Government will not state he was a spy, there has been no response to Mr McGartland's specific allegations that the Security Service withdrew funding for medical treatment, was negligent in the changing of "handlers" and broke promises with regard to financial payments, the installation of a phone line and access to benefits.

Profile

Martin McGartland's bid to have his claim heard in open court foundered because the Government will 'neither confirm nor deny' (NCND) he was a spy – even though the west Belfast man's best-selling book about his experiences, 50 Dead Men Walking, has been made into a film.

His legal team has argued that the NCND policy is absurd and unlawful as public statements naming Mr McGartland as an agent have already been made by official bodies including Crown authorities, the police, MPs and the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

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