Judge orders Villiers to provide affidavit in Hooded Men legal case
Northern Ireland's Secretary of State has less than a week to provide a sworn document in a legal action over the alleged internment and torture of a group of men more than 40 years ago, a High Court judge has ordered.
With lawyers for the so-called Hooded Men threatening possible contempt proceedings over any further delays in the case, Mr Justice Maguire set a March 24 deadline for Theresa Villiers to file an affidavit.
He said: "We have reached a position in this case where the limits of the court's tolerance have been arrived at."
The UK Government, police and the Department of Justice at Stormont are all facing a legal challenge over the failure to investigate torture claims. The case involves 14 men arrested at the height of the Troubles and interned without trial back in 1971.
They said they were subjected 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.
Eight of those taking legal action were in court yesterday as their lawyers accused the Government of unacceptable delays.
Hugh Southey QC told the judge: "There are at the back of the court eight men who, if the allegations contained in the claim are correct, are victims of one of the most serious human rights violations the State can commit; that the State at a high level decided to authorise torture."
Tony McGleenan QC, for the Secretary of State and Chief Constable, stressed the scale of the task undertaken to analyse historic allegations. He confirmed a draft affidavit has been prepared but was yet to be cleared, citing Ms Villiers' other duties, including her trip to the US.