Stakeknife claims could reveal appalling vista of collusion: DPP
Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory has warned that if the alleged activities of Freddie Scappaticci are proved they will open up "an appalling vista of collusion by the state."
The PSNI launched an investigation into claims of security force collusion in at least 24 murders connected to the activities of Scappaticci, the alleged spy known as 'Stakeknife', following a request last year by Mr McGrory.
Scappaticci was a member of the IRA's feared internal security team responsible for rooting out other agents but, it's claimed, reported everything to the British Army. He has denied being a British agent before leaving Northern Ireland in 2003, although he admitted to being an "active republican".
Some victims believe double agents within the republican organisation were permitted by the security forces to commit crimes, including murder, to gain the trust of gunmen.
Criminal reviews of the matters are understood to have stopped some time ago.
However, a new police probe was opened after Mr McGrory contacted the Chief Constable and requested two new investigations into Stakeknife's activities. The request was made after the Police Ombudsman contacted the Public Prosecution Service with information.
Speaking at the opening of the 21st International Association of Prosecutors Annual Conference in Dublin on Monday, Mr McGrory said that when allegations of criminal offences come into the prosecutor's domain, the prosecutor has a duty to see that such allegations are fully investigated.
"I treat requests to the Chief Constable to investigate cases with great care and have invoked these powers in a number of significant cases, most of which concern allegations of grave misconduct on the part of agencies of the state during the course of our conflict," Mr McGrory said.
He revealed that four of these directions alone concerned Stakeknife.
"If substantiated, these allegations open up an appalling vista of collusion by the state in the elimination of those same informants on whom it depended for information to sustain its counter terrorism strategy," Mr McGrory added.
Mr McGrory also told the conference he believed a closer relationship between the prosecutor and the police could speed up cases through the criminal justice system.
In 2012, a report by the Criminal Justice Inspection criticised the speed of justice in Northern Ireland, noting that some cases take twice as long to dispose of as in England and Wales. Mr McGrory said that the report "laid bare the gross inefficiencies of a system in which the investigator and prosecutor worked as two entirely separate entities".
He added that a recent pilot project which focused on close and early engagement between prosecutors and police has led to speedier justice, including a 67% reduction in average investigation, file preparation and submission time.
The pilot also resulted in an 89% reduction in time from receipt of file to PPS decision and a 49% reduction in time from PPS decision to a case being transferred to the Crown Court.
"Drawing on my experience as both a defence practitioner and as DPP, it is clear to me that the interface between the investigator and prosecutor - through co-ordination, partnership and integrated working - is of critical importance to the effectiveness of the entire criminal justice system," said Mr McGrory.