No prosecutions following latest consideration of Kenova files – PPS

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, who was alleged to have been Stakeknife, died in 2023. He had always denied the claims.

No prosecutions are to be pursued following the latest consideration of files from a major investigation into the Army’s top agent in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it had taken decisions not to prosecute four individuals reported by Operation Kenova in relation to its investigation into the agent known as Stakeknife.

They are two former soldiers who worked as agent handlers within the Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) in the 1980s and two individuals alleged to have been members of the IRA.

The four were reported to the PPS for consideration across six files submitted by Operation Kenova investigators.

Evidence on these files related to 10 different incidents which happened in the early 1980s, including four murders.

In each of the decisions, it was concluded that there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for any individual reported.

Stakeknife worked in the IRA’s notorious “nutting squad”, interrogating suspected informers during the Troubles.

Kenova examined crimes such as murder and torture linked to Stakeknife and the role played by the security services, including MI5.

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, who was alleged to have been Stakeknife, died in 2023. He had always denied the claims.

Operation Kenova was headed up by Jon Boutcher, who authored its report, but has since recused himself from involvement in its publication after taking up his new role as chief constable of the PSNI.

The latest decisions not to prosecute were related to the abduction and murder of one victim in 1981, the separate abduction and murder of a second victim in 1981, the 1981 abduction of one victim who was subsequently rescued, a conspiracy to abduct one victim in 1981, the abductions of four victims in 1981, one of whom escaped and three of whom suffered a kneecapping, the abduction and murder of one victim in 1982 and the abduction of two victims in 1984, one of whom was murdered while the other was released.

Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said: “The materials submitted by Operation Kenova investigators are extensive and present a complex picture for prosecutors to analyse and assess.

“This has required us to take a phased approach to the issue of prosecution decisions.

“After a thorough consideration of the material and information submitted in relation to these 10 incidents, it has been concluded that there is insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.

“Prosecutors again faced significant challenges when considering the use of intelligence records as evidence in criminal proceedings, particularly when original source materials were no longer available.”

Mr Herron added: “As has been the approach agreed with investigators to previous phases of Operation Kenova decisions, we are keen to avoid causing any further trauma to victims and families.

“The cases outlined have therefore been anonymised by the PPS to minimise the potential re-traumatisation of those involved.

“I appreciate, however, that today’s decisions will no doubt cause upset and pain.

“I can offer reassurance that these decisions were considered impartially and wholly independently by an experienced team of senior prosecutors, who were assisted by independent counsel.

“All victims and families connected to the incidents will have received from the PPS a detailed written explanation of the reasons for the decisions, along with an offer to meet to discuss the information provided.”

A further six files relating to the Operation Kenova investigation now remain under active consideration by the PPS.

It is anticipated that decisions on these files will be issued at the end of February.

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