Secretary of State failed to hand over all documents in ‘Hooded Men’ case, court hears

Hooded men
Hooded men

Secretary of State Teresa Villiers has failed to hand over all documents in relation to a case known as ‘The Hooded Men’, Belfast High Court has heard.

Lawyers for the Hooded Men - named so as they claim they were hooded and tortured by British soldiers more than 40 years ago - have called on the Secretary of State to hand over the rest of the documents.

Two weeks ago, the Secretary of State handed over what appeared to be all the documents in relation to a case.

Previously she had been given one week by a judge to hand over the documents.

However lawyers for the Hooded Men spent the past fortnight including Easter pouring over the documents that were handed over and it transpired a number of important papers were missing.

Lawyers for the men were in court this morning to request that the rest of the documents be handed over.

Speaking after the case which was heard in front of Mr Justice Maguire, Hooded Men lawyer Darragh Mackin of KRW Law said the court was told the documents should be provided forthwith.

He explained that it appeared some documents linked to legal briefings to ministers to allegedly authorised the treatment of the Hooded Men were missing.

Mr Mackin said he believes this goes to the heart of what the British ministers knew prior to the men’s torture.

Three weeks ago lawyers for the Hooded Men threatened possible contempt proceedings over any further delays in the case,

Then Mr Justice Maguire set a March 24 deadline for Theresa Villiers to file an affidavit.

At court three weeks ago he said: “We have reached a position in this case where the limits of the court’s tolerance have been arrived at.”

The UK Government, police and the Department of Justice at Stormont are all facing a legal challenge over the failure to investigate torture claims.

The case involves 14 men arrested at the height of the Troubles and interned without trial back in 1971.

They said they were subjected to constant loud static noise, deprived of sleep, food and water, forced to stand in a stress position and beaten if they fell.

The men were hooded and thrown to the ground from helicopters taking them to an interrogation centre, according to their case.

Despite being at near ground level, they had been told they were hundreds of feet in the air. In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights held that the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment - but fell short of making a finding of torture.

At a recent hearing in the High Court barrister Hugh Southey QC for the Hooded Men told the judge: “There are at the back of the court eight men who, if the allegations contained in the claim are correct, are victims of one of the most serious human rights violations the State can commit; that the State at a high level decided to authorise torture.”

The matter is to return to the High Court in two weeks, when, if the Secretary of State does not produce the missing papers, lawyers for the Hooded Men aim to bring an application for the court to order her to produce them.