- Shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland
During the period known as "
the Troubles" in Northern Ireland, the British Armyand Royal Ulster Constabularywere accused of operating a shoot-to-kill policy, under which suspects were deliberately killed without any attempt to arrest them. The alleged policy was almost exclusively aimed at suspected or actual members of Irish republican paramilitarygroupsFact|date=March 2008. The Special Air Service(SAS) is the most high-profile of the agencies that has been accused of employing this policy, as well as other British Armyregiments and the Royal Ulster Constabulary(RUC)Fact|date=March 2008.
Notable incidents alleging the use of the shoot-to-kill policy include Loughgall, Gibraltar and Strabane. The SAS killed a total of fourteen
Provisional Irish Republican Army(IRA) and Irish National Liberation Army(INLA) members at these locations.
Other high-profile incidents involving alleged shoot-to-kill incidents occurred in
Belfast, Derry, East Tyrone and South ArmaghFact|date=February 2007. The killing of Ulster Volunteer Force(UVF) member Brian Robinson by undercover army officers is notable for being the most prominent of the very few alleged 'shoot to kill' incidents where the victim was a loyalist. [cite web| url=http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/violence/docs/rolston00.htm|title="Unfinished Business:State Killings and the search for Truth (Extract)"|author=Bill Rolston and Mairead Gilmartin]
24 May 1984an inquiry under Deputy Chief Constable John Stalkerof the Greater Manchester Policewas opened into three specific cases where it was alleged that a specially trained undercover RUC team known as the "Divisional Mobile Support Unit" had carried out a "shoot-to-kill" policy. These three cases were:
11 November 1982: The killing of three unarmed IRA members at an RUC checkpoint in Craigavon, County ArmaghFact|date=March 2008.
24 November1982: The killing, by an RUC undercover unit, of Michael Tighe and the wounding of his friend Martin McCauleyat an IRA arms cache which the two men had discovered by accident on a farm near Lurgan, County Armagh. (19 years later, Martin McCauley was arrested in Colombia, accused by the Colombian authorities of teaching FARCguerillas in the use of explosives, in particular the " barrack buster"). [http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20011116028] [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2091-1408715,00.html] [http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=667&id=502842005] [http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/08/15/nira15.xml]
12 December1982: The killing at an RUC checkpoint in Mullacreavie, County Armagh, of two INLA members, Seamus Grewand Roddy Carroll(the intended main target, Dominic McGlinchey, was not in their car as expected) [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/violence/docs/rolston00.htm] .
The shootings were initially investigated by other members of the RUC, and the
Director of Public Prosecutionsfor Northern Ireland decided to bring prosecutions. At the first trial, relating to the shootings of the two INLA men, Constable John Robinson admitted to having been instructed to lie in his statements, and that other witnesses had similarly altered their stories to provide justification for opening fire on Grew and Carroll. When Robinson was found not guilty, the resulting public outcry caused RUC Chief Constable John Hermonto ask John Stalker to investigate the killings.
5 June 1986, just before Stalker was to make his final report, he was removed from his position in charge of the inquiry. On 30 June, he was suspended from duty over allegations of association with criminals. On 22 August, he was cleared of the allegations and returned to duty, although he was not reinstated as head of the inquiry. The inquiry was taken over by Colin Sampson of the West Yorkshire Police, its findings were never made public.
In the book "Stalker", published by Mr Stalker in 1988, the following descriptions of his investigation into the three shooting incidents appeared, concerning the McKerr, Toman and Burns shooting:-
Quotation|The Stalker inquiry discovered that the three victims of the shooting had been under surveillance for many hours by the police who planned to intercept them at a place different from where the killings occurred. No serious attempt to attract the attention of the driver was made, and no policeman was struck by the car. Immediately after the incident the police officers drove from the scene with their weapons and returned to their base for a debriefing by senior Special Branch Officers. Officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) were denied access for many days to the police officers involved and to their car, clothes and weapons for forensic examination. On the night of the killings, CID officers were given incorrect information about where the shootings began and part of the forensic examination was conducted in the wrong place. Many cartridge cases of rounds fired were never found.
We believed... that at least one officer had been in an entirely different position from that which he had claimed to be in when some fatal shots were fired. I also established that the police pursuit took place in a different manner from that described. But most damning of all, almost 21 months after the shooting we found fragments of the bullet that undoubtedly killed the driver still embedded in the car. That crucial evidence had lain undiscovered by the RUC and Forensic Science service... My conclusion in relation to the missing cartridge cases was that as many as twenty were deliberately removed from the scene. I could only presume that this was in order to mislead the forensic scientists and to hide the true nature and extent of the shooting.
I had to regard the investigation of the matter as slipshod and in some aspects woefully inadequate. I was left with two alternative conclusions, either that some RUC detectives were amateur and inefficient at even the most basic of murder investigation routines; or that they had been deliberately inept.
Concerning the three incidents as a whole, Stalker wrote:-
Quotation|Even though six deaths had occurred over a five week period... and involved in each case officers from the same specialist squad, no co-ordinated investigation had ever been attempted. It seemed that the investigating officers had never spoken to each other. Worse still, despite the obvious political and public implications, no senior officer had seen fit to draw the reports together.
We had expected a particularly high level of enquiry in view of the nature of the deaths, but this was shamefully absent. The files were little more than a collection of statements, apparently prepared for a coroner’s enquiry. They bore no resemblance to my idea of a murder prosecution file. Even on the most cursory of readings I could see clearly why the prosecutions had failed.
According to "
The Times" of 9 February1988, Mr Stalker stated that although he never found written evidence of a shoot-to-kill policy, there was a "clear understanding" that officers were expected to enforce it.
In 1990 the RUC issued a response to the book by Mr Stalker. It stated in its introduction that the book contained many inaccuracies and distortions and gave a misleading impression. Their document aimed to highlight a selected number of misrepresentations. It was stated, in contradiction to Mr Stalker’s assertions, that it was wrong to allege that the three investigations were carried out under different detectives as the same detective superintendent was in charge of two of the investigations; that the investigation files were presented to the DPP in the format approved by him; that it was already established in a police statement of
13 November1982 that no police officer had been struck by the car driven by Gervaise McKerr; that it had been advisable, for the safety of the three officers, that they leave the scene immediately; that their weapons had been seized without delay by the scene of crimes officers; that no incorrect information was given to the investigating officers concerning where the shooting occurred, although uniformed officers had mistakenly positioned the tape on the junction and it was repositioned accurately shortly afterwards; it was accepted that all the cartridges were not recovered but due to the torrential rain at the time some could have been washed down the drains; the area had nonetheless been swept over for two days with metal detectors.
Criticisms were also made that Mr Stalker had gone outside his remit to reinvestigate the shooting incidents as well as a terrorist incident on
27 October1982 in which three police officers had been killed and that his report, when submitted, lacked the clarity and precision normally associated with criminal investigations.
The Government also submitted that on
23 June1992 Mr Thorburn, on the occasion of his withdrawal of a libel action against the RUC Chief Constable, made a statement in which he took the opportunity to submit publicly that he was satisfied that the RUC had not pursued a shoot- to-kill policy in 1982 and that the RUC Chief Constable had not condoned or authorised any deliberate or reckless killings by his officers. Other members of the Stalker/Sampson inquiry team also stated in June 1990 that "the Greater Manchester officers wish to stress that the Stalker/Sampson Enquiry found no evidence of a 'Shoot to Kill policy'". [http://www.worldlii.org//cgi-bin/disp.pl/eu/cases/ECHR/2001/329.html?query=RUC] [European Court of Human Rights - McKERR v. THE UNITED KINGDOM - 28883/95  ECHR 329 (4 May 2001) THIRD SECTION]
Some of the victims' families have won compensation from the Ministry of Defence following cases brought to the
European Court of Human Rightsagainst the British government. The European judges considered four separate cases between 1982 and 1992 in which 14 people were killed. They involved the deaths of twelve IRA members and two civilians (one a Sinn Féinmember) at the hands of the SAS, the RUC and the loyalist Ulster Defence Association, allegedly acting in collusion with the RUC.
In the judgement the court ruled that eight armed IRA men shot dead by soldiers of an undercover SAS unit at Loughgall,
County Armagh, in 1987, and two IRA men killed by RUC officers, had their human rights violated. It said this had arisen because of the failure of the state authorities to conduct a proper investigation into the circumstances of the deaths. A similar finding was brought in the case of Sinn Féin member Patrick Shanaghan, who was killed by loyalist paramilitaries. The findings were brought under Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights. [ [http://www.worldlii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/1995/31.html McCANN AND OTHERS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM - 18984/91 [1995 ECHR 31 (27 September 1995) ] ]
A number of television programmes were produced about or in reaction to specific incidents in particular or the shoot-to-kill issue in general:
Death on the Rock" - an edition of "This Week" about the Gibraltar killings, produced by Thames Televisionfor ITV, shown on 28 April 1988.
* "Nineteen 96" - a BBC1 "Screen One" drama that relocated the Stalker inquiry to a future fictional
Walesin the year 1996 and combined it with some elements of the Kincora boy's homescandal, with Keith Barronas the investigating officer. Written by G. F. Newmanand directed by Karl Francis, it was screened on BBC1on 17 September 1989.
* "Shoot to Kill" - a four-hour dramadocumentary about the Stalker inquiry, with Jack Shepherd in the lead role, David Calder as John Thorburn, and
T. P. McKennaas Sir John Hermon. It had originally been intended to be a straight-forward documentary, but in the words of the director, "all of the people we would have wanted to interview were either dead - in that they were shot by the RUC in 1982 - they had disappeared and were given new identities, or they were still serving policemen and weren't available for interview." ["Shoot to Kill - The Issues" (Yorkshire Television for ITV, 4 June 1990)] The drama featured re-enactments of all three incidents investigated by Stalker - including that Dominic McGlinchey had been the intended target in the third - and the course of Stalker's investigation. Written by Michael Eastonand directed by Peter Kosminsky, and produced by Yorkshire Televisionfor ITV, it was shown in two parts on 3 and 4 June 1990, with the second episode being followed by a half-hour studio discussion between Kosminsky, Conservative Member of Parliament Ian Gow, Social Democratic and Labour PartyMP Seamus Mallon, Ulster Unionist PartyMP David Trimble, and Larry Cox of Amnesty International.
Hidden Agenda" - a 1990 film directed by Ken Loachwhich based a fictionalised version of the Stalker inquiry in the context of the shooting of an American civil rights lawyer.
* "Lethal Force" - an edition of "Panorama" investigating a number of cases, including the killing by undercover members of
14 Intelligence Companyof John McNeill, Eddie Hale and Peter Thompson, as they attempted to rob a Belfast betting shop armed with replica firearms on 13 January 1990, and the killing by soldiers of 3 Para of joyriders Martin Peake and Karen Reilly on 30 September the same year [http://www.1in12.go-legend.net/publications/archive/stories98/clegg.htm] . Shown on BBC1 on 22 July 1991.
* "You, Me and Marley" - a BBC2 "Screenplay" drama, written by Graham Reid and directed by Richard Spence, inspired by the killing of Peake and Reilly, and shown on the first anniversary of their deaths.
* [http://www.madden-finucane.com/patfinucane/index.htm Information regarding the murder of Pat Finucane]
* [http://irelandsown.net/stateviolence.htm Claims of state sponsored murder in Ireland]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1706149,00.html Article on police shootings in the UK]
* [http://www.charter88.org.uk/publications/violations/lashmar2.html "The Stalker Affair" by Paul Lashmar] ("Violations of Rights in Britain Series" 3 No.27)
* [http://www.inac.org/irishhistory/shoot Shoot to Kill, The Stalker and Stevens Inquiries]
* [http://www.rcgfrfi.easynet.co.uk/larkin_pubs/older/motr/motr_all.htm "Murder on the Rock" by Maxine Williams.] Article includes a list of suspected shoot-to-kill victims between 1982-1986.
* [http://www.relativesforjustice.com/ Republican website listing the victims of "Shoot to Kill" allegations]
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