Top lawyer to review 'rape' cases
Three cases linked to alleged rape of a Belfast woman and subsequent IRA cover-up are to be reviewed by a top human rights lawyer, the Public Prosecution Service has said.
Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions for England and Wales has been appointed to look again at all aspects of the prosecutions related to the Mairia Cahill case.
Ms Cahill, 33, claims she was raped by a suspected IRA member when she was a teenager in 1997.
She has further claimed that the republican movement conducted its own inquiry into her account, subjecting her to interrogation and forcing her to confront her alleged attacker.
The man she accused of rape was later acquitted of criminal charges in court after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence. Charges were also dropped against those allegedly involved in the IRA's internal inquiry.
Sir Keir, who has previously acted as an advisor to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said he would approach the review with an "open mind".
He said: "I am very pleased to have been asked to lead this review. I have been privileged to have spent considerable time in Northern Ireland and have a tremendous respect for its people.
"I will approach this important task with rigorous independence and an open mind."
Barra McGory, Northern Ireland's director of public prosecutions, said he hoped the appointment would help restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Mr McGrory said: "These cases have been the subject of much public commentary with significant concerns raised. I consider that it is right to have an independent review to maintain and build public confidence in the criminal justice system and in particular in the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).
"This external and independent review will provide an added level of scrutiny, not just to these cases but across the systems and processes that apply to similar areas of work."
The review is likely to involve engagement with the complainants and counsel as well as a review of the prosecution files.
The PPS said an early scoping exercise would take place before the end of November with the full review expected to be completed by next Spring.
Ms Cahill is from a well-known republican family in west Belfast.
Her late great uncle, Joe Cahill, was a founding member of the Provisional IRA. Her case has been raised in the Dail and at Stormont.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who has denied any suggestion he was involved in a cover up of her case, has admitted that the IRA on occasion had shot alleged sex abusers, insisting that its members were "singularly ill-equipped to deal with these matters".
Ms Cahill has accused Sinn Fein of treating her in a "despicable and reprehensible" manner and has called on Mr Adams to quit.