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 PSNI ‘hooded men’ decision unlawful court rules

The decision by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to discontinue an investigation into the alleged torture of the group of Catholics known as the ‘hooded men’ in 2014 was unlawful, the UK’s Supreme Court has ruled.

In a decision handed down this morning (Wednesday) in London, the court stated that the treatment of the men – held with hundreds of other Catholics without charge or trial in 1971 in what was known as internment – would be characterised today as torture.

The court said: “It is likely that the deplorable treatment to which the hooded men were subjected at the hands of the security forces would be characterised today, applying the standards of 2021, as torture. There is a growing body of high judicial authority in support of this view.”

It was stated that their treatment was a deliberate policy by the British security forces.

“Those who administered it were acting under orders and were trained as to how it should be inflicted. It was authorised at a very high level including ministerial authorisation and was, therefore, an administrative practice of the state,” the court commented.


Darragh Mackin, solicitor for the applicant Francis McGuigan, said outside court: “Today’s decision is a landmark victory for the hooded men.

“Since 2014 they have actively contested the decision by the PSNI not to investigate the allegations of torture. It was always clear that the initial investigation by the PSNI was nothing more than a window dressing exercise which only sought to pay lip service to the term ‘investigation’.

“The hooded men have also known that the treatment inflicted on them was that of torture,” Mr Mackin said.

The hooded men have long called for a new, independent investigation into their treatment.

The decision was made after a three-day hearing before the Supreme Court in June this year. Seven London-based justices heard arguments relating to the treatment of people detained in 1971, now known as the hooded men.

The men were among hundreds of others arrested during internment in August 1971. They were taken to an army camp in Co. Derry and were subjected to ill-treatment which included being beaten, denied food and water and thrown hooded from helicopters which they believed to be flying at height – but were actually close to the ground.


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