“Shoot to Kill” Files Ordered Released

The High Court today has ordered that files relating to the government’s alleged ‘shoot to kill’ policy should be released. Mr. Justice John Gillen said:

“If inquests are to maintain public confidence, put minds at rest and answer the questions of the families who are bereaved, it is vital to ensure that the interested parties/next of kin can participate in an informed, open and transparent fashion on an equal footing with all other parties throughout the various stages of the inquest including, at the outset of the process, the very scope of the inquest.

This can only be achieved where appropriate disclosure has been made of potentially relevant material.”

Several inquests into the deaths of both suspected IRA and INLA men have been delayed for over 30 years. While the government has always officially denied the existence of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy, family members have been pressing for decades to find out what really happened.

An investigation into what happened to the men was carried out by former Greater Manchester Police Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker and Sir Colin Sampson of the West Yorkshire Police, but the Stalker and Sampson reports have never been made public.

Today’s judgment quashed the police application that would have prevented Coroner John Leckey from handing over the (already redacted) reports to family members.

In agreeing with Mr. Lecky’s barrister, Justice Gillen said that:

“The coroner is constrained by the concepts of fairness, proportionality and transparency inherent in the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. I believe it is an entirely rational and proportionate decision for him to conclude that this means that he must permit the families of the deceased to see the entirety of the Stalker and Sampson reports – he having determined them ‘generally relevant’- whilst at the same time, recognising the need to protect sensitive material and the Article 2 rights (to life) under the Convention of police officers etc.”

Perhaps the availability of these reports will put to rest one of the long-running allegations of the Troubles? Or will the redacted ‘sensitive’ bits continue to obscure whether or not there really was a ‘shoot to kill’ policy?

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  • Liberal Unionist

    All this ‘Shoot to kill’ nonsense is Sinn Fein spin.
    There is no other purpose in shooting someone other than to kill them, unless your the provos who regularly shot people as punishment for the slightest crime.
    If the person being shot was armed then they got what was coming to them, end of!

  • halfer

    …and if they weren’t armed?

  • Liberal Unionist

    If there was reasonable suspicion that they may have been as in case of Gib 3 then I have no problem with it. If you play with fire you get burned.

  • tacapall

    So if you’re classed as a terrorist and shoot an unarmed person in the back without warning its murder, but if you’re a member of the British security forces and shoot an unarmed person in the back without warning and kill them, they got what was coming to them. Its amazing the way you can dismiss the rule of law for members of your own tribe.

  • HeinzGuderian

    When is a ‘war’ not a ‘war’ ? When the British Army have the audacity to shoot back !! ;o)

  • tacapall

    I suppose when one side of the confilct are classed as terrorists and the other side bring them to their courts of justice and convict them for crimes that they have committed themselves.

  • Liberal Unionist, in these cases there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the RUC knew these men were not armed – e.g. the missing recording of the hayshed where Michael Tighe was killed and the suspicion that informers set-up the other five men. IMO these were reprisal/revenge killings by the RUC and that’s what they are trying to hide.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Alas pira Courts of Justice were somewhat one sided…………….but ssssssh………….better not mention that,huh ? :O)

  • HeinzGuderian

    Your opinion………………indeed Sir. Indeed.

  • HeinzGuderian, in lieu of the facts being made available, opinions are all any of us have to go on. However the only eye witness accounts to come out would tally with my opinion – Martin McCaughley in the hayshed re the lack of warning, John Stalker in his book re the missing tape recording, the RUC officer in the Carroll case who said he was ordered to lie by superior officers.

    What do you base your opinion on, if you have one?

  • tacapall

    Did the children murdered with plastic bullets get what was coming to them. Have you heard of any members of the security forces even charged never mind convicted with these murders. Have you heard of any Special Branch officers who assisted the Mount Vernon UVF in dozens of murders being charged or convicted with any crimes. Sssssh …… better not mention that either.

  • Bubbler

    All of this debate shows very clearly that the Judge’s decision to release the files was correct – otherwise all we’ll ever have is guesswork and rumors. If there really is no ‘shoot to kill’ policy (which for all of you who say ‘they got what was coming to them – shoot to kill would be incredibly illegal under the ECHR, and no, you cannot derogate from the right to life. Sorry) then the government shouldn’t have a problem with releasing the files, should they?

    The other thing no one has picked up on yet – these files are already redacted, with sometimes large sections being blacked out. So even though they are supposed to be released, does it even matter? Can we possible get the truth without all of the information?

  • Driftwood

    No-one was ever murdered by a plastic bullet. Petrol Bombers are ‘armed’ and dangerous. The British Army have a guide as to when to use lethal force and only when they believe there is a threat to their lives or others. Anyone who was ever killed by the British Army brought it upon themselves.

    And that is a fact.

  • tacapall

    Driftwood you obviously know nothing of the facts surrounding any of the cases of those children who were murdered by plastic bullets some as young as nine who were no-where near roiting. What about Nora McCabe did she have a petrol bomb.

  • Diomedes
  • joeCanuck

    I wouldn’t get my hopes up yet if I was a family member awaiting these documents. This will be appealed all the way to the highest court and the establishment will circle the wagons and have a word in the ears of the Law Lords as they have frequently in the past.

  • Bubbler, your initial post is slightly out. The initial inquests opened in 1984 which would make it almost 26 years, not over 30 as you say. However as you say the release of redacted files is questionable but we won’t know until we see them. The most important thing for me is that there is enough in them to allow the inquests to proceed. As if the original killings weren’t bad enough, the continuing injustice is that the families haven’t been given any sense of closure one might expect with an inquest. Indeed, the case of one of the three Lurgan men is particularly tragic given the subsequent death of his wife and recent death of his son after so many years campaigning for an inquest. All of the families have remained remarkably dignified over the years in the face of some outrageous comments and slurs in the media and other places. I hope for their sake this can all be put to bed soon.

  • Bubbler

    You’re right – sorry about that.

    The government is obliged by the ECHR to investigate any deprivations by the State of the right to life – so by law these inquests must occur. As you say, we won’t know about the redacted files until we see them – but in my opinion, there must be something potentially there, because otherwise, why would they redact them? It sends up a red flag. If everything is above board, you shouldn’t need to edit or hide.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Don’t you just love the pira idea of ‘war’ ? We can shoot to kill……………you can’t. How quaint…..:O)

  • RepublicanStones

    Drift, I’d expect better than that nonsense from you…

    ttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/ruc-reopens-case-of-boy-killed-by-plastic-bullet-1597646.html

    http://www.u.tv/News/Plastic-bullet-RUC-should-have-been-charged/cc7171e4-b3ec-4ef3-ac7f-ed96e6f99e17

  • RepublicanStones

    Some people don’t seem to get it. Unionists routinely inform us their hands are clean. But then we get to state terrorism and the goal posts are moved. British state forces have always enjoyed unqualified support within unionism. You cannot claim to be on a higher moral plane without holding the same opinion of ALL terrorism.

  • Drumlin Rock

    RS, if you are truely interested in the families of the Republican Dead then I would agree those who give the orders and
    carried out the acts should be forced to come clean and give the families some sort of closure.
    As the republican movement itself murdered more republicans than the entire security forces combined maybe they would like to go first? until they do they have no grounds whatsoever in demanding it of others.

  • RepublicanStones

    DR where did I mention the families of Republican Dead in my post? Furthermore please point out the demand I made in my post.
    My simply pointing out an uncomfortable truth, seems to have made you uncomfortable DR, imagine that !

  • RS,
    I cannot speak for Drumlin’s Rock but I am not “comfortable” with anyone dying. I regard it as sad. Furthermore I regard all the deaths during the Troubles as at a fundamental level unnecessary. Was the farce on the hill and McGuinness as our DFM worth one death?

    I suspect DR may have similar opinions.

    The police and army may at times have fired without warning. However, it seems in all these cases that they was a very high likelihood that the terrorists were armed and going to fire back. Guns kill people: one cannot shoot in any other way than to kill and if faced with a ruthless armed terrorist who may well have murdered people, it is unreasonable to expect a police officer who will himself be in fear of his or her life, despite only doing their job to wait and put themselves in further danger.

    I gain no pleasure from the deaths of anyone but I will shed few enough tears for the likes of the Loughgall “martyrs” or any other terrorists: they were responsible for very many murders and although I would have been happier had they been arrested, more people are alive today because they died that May morning.

    As to the plastic bullets the simple and sad fact is that they were highly inaccurate and the government did not buy the more accurate ones available. Hence, sometimes they hit the wrong person. Again, however, they were not used in situations where security forces livers were not themselves in danger.

  • Drumlin Rock

    I do hold the same opinion of all terrorism (and yes any member of the security forces who carried out criminal acts is a terrorist too), what I was pointing out was often those Republicans focusing on “shoot to kill” and such accusations are just trying to cover over and excuse many of their own actions, which far outweigh any actions of the police or army.

  • Drumlin Rock

    The universal rule is you should only take the life of another person when you have genuine reason to believe your own or another persons life is in immediate danger from the first person.
    How many of the deaths during the troubles fit into that category? I believe the likes of Loughgall did, Bloody Sunday we shall probably see did not, cant think of very few circumstances where that was the case involving the IRA, UVF, etc.

  • DR well said, I suppose a few idiots will suggest that the IRA were in danger from the SAS etc. which is of course true because the IRA were there committing criminal acts in the first place.

    Arresting heavily armed and ruthless murderers is extremely dangerous to those doing the arresting and as such the republican claims of shoot to kill and insistence on the criminals being arrested are not credible

  • Bubbler

    Turgon,
    While it is reprehensible that anyone had to die (and I agree with you there), I disagree that insistence on arrest and not ‘shoot to kill’ isn’t a credible request. It is. Actually, it’s a lawful request.

    I think I’ve said this before, but by law, governments simply cannot shoot someone because they suspect them of being a terrorist – even in an extreme national emergency, violations of the right to life are only permitted in respect of deaths resulting from lawful acts of war. The IRA may say it was a war, but I personally do not remember the last time I heard the British Army claim it was.

    While international law opinion is expanding and some sources are beginning to say that it is lawful to kill an ‘enemy combatant’ or a ‘suspected terrorist’ even when they are not actively engaged in hostilities, this was certainly not so at the time of these deaths.

    Regardless, these deaths should be investigated. Deaths should be investigated, no matter what your opinion of those killed. If we stop making sure the government investigates killings (especially, IMO, state-killings), what else are we going to let them get away with? It’s a slippery legal slope. Whether they are ultimately responsible or not, there must be a public investigation to determine it.

  • Bubbler

    I want to clarify what I mean by ‘at the time of these deaths’ – I’m not making a claim as to whether or not the men were engaged in active hostilities when they were killed, I’m referring to international legal opinion at the time that they were killed.

  • RepublicanStones

    Sorry DR but this…

    and yes any member of the security forces who carried out criminal acts is a terrorist too

    seems to suggest you think only the foot soldiers who carried out (what was undoubtedly a policy initiated higher up the food chain) such acts should be liable to prosecution. And you also seem to think the most recent incarnation of the Irish/british conflict commonly referred to as ‘The Troubles’ should be put in some kind of bubble, exempt from the history which preceded it. The Provos were responsible for the most deaths of any group, but if you think numbers is the means to decide who sits atop the moral plane, you’d only ending up craning your neck. Until unionism faces up to Britains undeniable history of state terrorism in its colonial conflicts and the policies employed (which makes for deeply unsavoury reading and pales anything republicans ever carried out) of which its history in Ireland was one (and for some reason you seem to think the british were above trying here what they deemed to have work in other areas of the globe???), the cry of ‘Our hands are clean’ will ring hollow. How many Unionist politicians have you have ever heard call for full disclosure of collusion, for prosecution of the people who initiated the policy? Honestly…how many?

  • Drumlin Rock

    “and yes any member of the security forces who carried out criminal acts is a terrorist too” as are any who order them to do so,
    and should be liable to prosecution.
    happy?
    And sure why not drag up the past, maybe we should blame the romans? and what about those barbaric Celts slaughtering the poor picts, we should charge them with war crimes, hold on the’re dead! the difference is many of those involved in the troubles are still alive and often in positions of power.

  • RepublicanStones

    The police and army may at times have fired without warning.

    Fired without warning? Turgon you seem to wish to peel away the rotten potato of collusion until all you think is left is a few incidents of Britian’s foot soldiers firing without warning. Nice. Again you ignore British policy throughout centuries of conflict. Would you like me to quote you John Weir’s affidavit at length? (of course you’ll claim he was a nutter), how about excerpt’s of Frank Kitson’s numerous writings, he served in the north believe it or not? You seem to be like DR, believing that for some reason the British all of a sudden decided to refrain from using methods and policies which served their agenda well for nigh on centuries, because conflict erupted again in the late 60s in Ireland???!!! Care to explain why it is you think they abandoned these unsavoury methods?

  • Drumlin Rock

    Ok RS, I will call for full disclosure of all facts connected with the cricumstances of each and every death connected with the “Irish/British confilct” over the past 70 years, (as few if any involved before that are still alive It would be difficult to go any further back, and I think we should really stick to NI, or the whole of Ireland if you wish).
    Disclosure to happen on a rolling basis across all parties in the confilct starting with the 1940s and working their way up to the present, are you happy enough to support me on this ?

  • RepublicanStones

    and should be liable to prosecution.
    happy?

    Is that a call for full disclosure? Think we’ll see the reports without any redaction?

    And sorry for upsetting you, but you cannot pretend the troubles are in a bubble.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Do you want to name some incidents you wish to discuss? will do so on the condition we also apply the same conditions to a republican incident from the same period. Dont recall any warning shouts from the IRA.

  • Bubbler

    Truth Commission……..?

    ……thoughts?

  • Driftwood

    All deaths by the military are investigated. Anyone found guilty of wrongdoing, as a few soldiers were in Iraq, are court martialled or prosecuted. That is the British way. And how the British army functions. Indeed some members of the Queens Lancashire Regiment were dishonourably discharged for letting the Regiment down over rough treatment meted out to Iraqi terrorists who were caught.

    American soldiers are under nowhere near so much restrictions.
    It seems some people just want to sully the name of the Army, RN, RAF and Royal Marines because of the respect they hold across the world.

  • RepublicanStones

    DR we seem to have descended into a game of show the scars. Twas not my intention, and again judging from your lets compare incidents approach you seem only to be concerned with the result of the policy, not the policy itself.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Sure RS, put the whole thing in the public domain, but only if all parties agree to the same, and if any are liable to prosecution then all should be, that includes both the UK, NI & RoI governements, the British & Irish Armies, Police forces, all groups, IRA, UVF, INLA, UFF, etc etc. all political parties, SF, DUP, SDLP, UUP, FF, Torys, Lab, FG, etc etc. the churches, the OO & GAA, the whole country, everyone of them should come clean or clear their names. Bring in the whole of history and the rest of the world as evidence if you want, but realistically lets start with case where there are still close relatives still alive seeking answers, call it a truth commission or whatever but it has to be the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth.
    So will you support full disclosure from Republicans? with the chance of prosecutions of course as you insisted.

  • Drumlin Rock

    I want to know the whole truth RS, not just one side, will you call for both side to disclose full details about controversial incidents?

  • RepublicanStones

    No problem whatsoever DR. But again with the incidents thing. Disclosure of incidents is only the tip of the iceberg, policy is where you need to look. And with that it’ll be the suits as well as the uniforms. But thinking the British govt (one of the most secretive in the western world) would ever even countenance such an idea is pie in the sky.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Will the Armani suited republicans at Stormont also reveal their policies?
    Anyways the who and how, needs to be answered before the why.
    But I am glad to hear a republican supporting a call on the leadership of the IRA and other groups to also offer full disclosure at the same time as the British government etc.

  • jim

    did the other scroat who escaped death in the hayshed not turn up in columbia swaping bomb making skills for drugs.said he was bird watching

  • jim

    the winner writes the history books the ira surrendered their arm to the brits …….end of