The government stand accused of a cover-up after it was revealed police and soldiers would not be prosecuted over the death of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
Even though former Scotland Yard chief Lord Stevens established that British security forces colluded with loyalist paramilitary killers, prosecutors in Northern Ireland ruled there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.
Loyalist gunmen shot Pat Finucane dead in front of his family in 1989.
The Stevens inquiry found his murder could have been prevented by the former Royal Ulster Constabulary and by military intelligence, who were warned in advance.
Just one of the killers was convicted, while a second was acquitted and later shot dead by associates in the Ulster Defence Association.
Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said a wide range of charges – including murder – had been considered against a number of individuals, but there was not enough evidence to bring charges.
Lord Stevens said in his report – which was handed in more than four years ago – that the Finucane killing could have been prevented, and claimed his investigations were wilfully obstructed and misled.
The Stevens report revealed that informants and British agents were allowed to participate in loyalist murder gangs.
But as the PPS announced its decision that no further prosecutions will be brought, assistant director Pamela Atchison said, “Some of the difficulties included an absence of particular records, potential witnesses who had since died and the inability in certain instances to identify the role and responsibilities that individuals played in specific events.”
At the heart of the Stevens inquiry was the role of the Army’s covert operation in Northern Ireland, especially the Force Research Unit (FRU).
Nine former members of the covert agency, including its ex-chief Gordon Kerr, currently running military intelligence in Iraq, were questioned, as well as seven police officers.
Also under investigation were three top UDA men who were working for the intelligence services: Brian Nelson, who supplied information to FRU; Ken Barrett, who later admitted shooting Finucane; and William Stobie, an RUC informer shot dead when he was about to testify in court about the case.
At the very least British intelligence had been warned in advance that the lawyer was going to be shot. But in its statement, the PPS insisted, “There was insufficient evidence to establish that any member of FRU had agreed with Brian Nelson or any other person that Patrick Finucane should be murdered or had knowledge at the relevant time that the murder was to take place.”
Speaking on behalf of the Finucane family Michael Finucane said, “My family and I are extremely angry and disappointed at the decision of the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] not to prosecute anyone arising from the report of the Stevens III Investigation and especially the manner in which it has been delivered. Once again, we are expected to respond at a moment’s notice to important events that the authorities have had years to consider.
“It is difficult to square the unequivocal nature of the conclusions reached by Lord Stevens four years ago with the submissive, timid, unconvincing reasons advanced by the DPP for not instituting a single prosecution. It is notable that the DPP feels himself unable to use ‘certain intelligence records as evidence’, a clear indication that the interests of national security remain more important than the human lives.
“The announcement by Lord Stevens in Belfast four years ago sent shockwaves through the British establishment that reverberated around the world. The announcement today by the DPP for Northern Ireland sinks like a heavy stone into the mire of collusion and cover-up, taking with it any hope that the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland will deliver for victims where the State’s own agents and agencies are concerned.”
“The family of Pat Finucane will not be deterred by the decision of the DPP. We will continue to press for a fully independent public inquiry into the murder and all of the surrounding circumstances. We sought such an inquiry from the former [British] Prime Minister, Tony Blair and were blocked and frustrated in our efforts by him. We now look to his successor to show that the era of secrecy, cover-up and collusion is truly over.
“We look to Gordon Brown to deliver on the commitment made by the British Government to hold an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the murder of Pat Finucane.
“Only an independent public inquiry can satisfy the concerns of my family and the wider public about the existence of collusion between the British army, the RUC and security services in the murder of Pat Finucane and many others.”
More information Pat Finucane centre » www.serve.com/pfc