Belfast Telegraph

Family anger as independent probe of 1972 killing stalled by PSNI move

Murdered: Jean Smyth-Campbell
Murdered: Jean Smyth-Campbell
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The sister of a young Belfast mother who was shot dead in 1972 has accused the PSNI and the Government of showing "contempt" to her family by seeking to appeal a court ruling requiring an independent investigation into her death.

Jean Smyth-Campbell (24) was shot while in a car in the Glen Road in west Belfast on June 8, 1972. Her death was initially blamed on the IRA, but it was later suspected the Military Reaction Force, a secretive Army unit, was responsible.

This morning members of her family are meeting PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, who has said he fears that the court's recent decision could have "significant implications" for contemporary policing.

Last month the Court of Appeal in Belfast found the PSNI lacked the independence necessary to investigate the killing.

It was also found that the Northern Ireland Office and Department of Justice had failed to provide an investigation compliant European human rights law.

Ms Smyth-Campbell's sister Margaret McQuillan called the appeal a "shameful delaying tactic by the PSNI and the British Government".

"The PSNI, the Department of Justice, and the British Secretary of State (Karen Bradley) have shown Jean and our family nothing but contempt. They should be ashamed of themselves. They have no respect for victims or their families," she said.

Speaking on behalf of Kinnear & Co, Campbell family legal representative Niall O'Murchu said the appeal undermined Mr Hamilton's claim he did not want the PSNI to handle legacy cases.

He added attempts to make the PSNI's Legacy Investigation Branch independent were "window-dressing" the families won't accept.

Mr O'Murchu also noted that the PSNI was appealing only part of the judgment which concerns its independence, while the NIO and DoJ were appealing against all of it.

He called this "a callous attempt to try and block meaningful legacy investigations".

Mr Hamilton said he accepted the original investigations by the RUC and the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) in 2008 were inadequate.

"It is a matter of deep regret that policing has failed to provide answers and secure justice for the Smyth family," he said.

With no Historical Investigation Unit in place, Mr Hamilton said he had ordered steps to ensure "practical independence" for the PSNI's Legacy Investigation Branch,

"The case of Jean Smyth is one of a number which are challenging the independence of the PSNI," he said.

"While these cases relate to legacy incidents, I am concerned by their potential implications for the delivery of effective, operationally independent and accountable policing in the present day."

A UK Government spokesperson said it remained "fully committed" to the implementation of historical legacy institutions.

They added that the Government was still seeking clarification over the court case, but could not comment any further during ongoing proceedings.

"Our thoughts today remain with the Smyth family and all families in Northern Ireland who lost loved ones as a result of the Troubles," they added.

In the absence of agreed mechanisms on the past, the Department of Justice decides on funding for legacy investigations.

The department said: "The appeal will seek to provide clarity on issues pertaining to the obligation to investigate legacy cases in a way that satisfies Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights."

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