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Stakeknife: Alleged one-time top British agent inside IRA facing at least 9 separate lawsuits

By Alan Erwin

The alleged one-time top British agent inside the IRA is facing at least nine separate lawsuits, it emerged today.

Writs have been issued against west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci in cases involving claims of kidnapping and interrogating suspected police informers.

A High Court judge was told the 69-year-old, who denies being the spy codenamed Stakeknife, may also be the subject of further litigation in future.

The scale was revealed as the first actions against Scappaticci were put on hold due to issues around the availability of specially appointed barristers for partially secret hearings.

Police and the Ministry of Defence are seeking Closed Material Procedures (CMP) in the cases in a bid to maintain national security.

The so-called secret courts would involve intelligence documents being assessed by a judge and special advocates there to protect the interests of plaintiffs shut out from the hearings.

Applications are being made on the basis that the cases involve highly sensitive material.

Counsel for the Ministry of Defence confirmed in court that Scappaticci is currently a defendant in nine writs.

He added: "There are other cases where there is pre-action correspondence, but we haven't included those on the list."

Scappaticci left Nothern Ireland in 2003 after being identified by the media as Stakeknife.

Before quitting his home he vehemently denied being the agent while in charge of the IRA's internal security team, the so-called 'Nutting Squad'.

An investigation into the activities of Stakenife, including an alleged link to 50 murders, is being led by the chief constable of Bedfordshire Police.

One of the confirmed cases involves an action by Margaret Keeley against the Chief Constable, MoD and Scappaticci.

The Newry woman's former husband is Peter Keeley, an ex-MI5 agent who also uses the pseudonym Kevin Fulton.

She alleges she was wrongfully arrested and falsely imprisoned during a three-day period at Castlereagh police station in 1994 following an IRA attempt to murder a senior detective in east Belfast.

She believes her detention was part of an elaborate sham to protect her husband's cover.

Mrs Keeley was released without charge, but claims she was then taken with Fulton to a flat in the New Lodge area of north Belfast and questioned by an IRA security team.

Scappaticci was one of the men who carried out two debriefing sessions, she has previously alleged in court.

He is also named as a defendant in other lawsuits centred on the kidnapping of a police informer in January 1990.

Sandy Lynch was said to have been interrogated at a house in west Belfast before RUC officers swooped.

Some of those whose convictions for involvement in the abduction were overturned are pursuing claims against Scappaticci, the court heard.

However, concerns were raised that a pool of barristers authorised to represent plaintiffs and the defendant in the CMP applications could be exhausted.

Mr Justice Stephens was told there are currently only 19 special advocates.

But 11 of those could be ruled out because they have already been involved in the process and cannot appear again - leaving as few as eight counsel qualified for the role on the books.

Frank O'Donoghue QC, representing Scappaticci, confirmed his client wants to retain the same special advocate in all cases against him.

Following further discussions, the judge agreed to adjourn the first two applications for closed hearings.

Directing steps be taken to appoint special advocates for Scappaticci and the plaintiffs, Mr Justice Stephens scheduled a further review of all current cases.

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