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Seven of the Hooded Men - (from left) Jim Auld, Patrick McNally, Liam Shannon, Francis McGuigan, Davy Rodgers, Brian Turley and Joe Clarke Alamy Stock Photo

PSNI apologises to Hooded Men, says their treatment 'would be characterised today as torture'

The ‘Hooded Men’ were detained and subjected to extreme interrogation methods in 1971.

LAST UPDATE | 13 Jun 2023

A GROUP OF internees known as the Hooded Men have received an apology from the PSNI over their treatment at the hands of police. 

Hundreds of people were detained without trial in Northern Ireland during internment.

The 14 hooded men were subjected to a series of controversial interrogation techniques by the British Army and police when they were interned without trial in Northern Ireland in 1971.

The techniques included hooding and being put in stress positions, forced to listen to white noise and deprived of sleep, food and water.

They were also thrown from helicopters that were hovering close to the ground, having been told the aircraft were hundreds of feet in the air.

In December 2021, the UK Supreme Court found the decision by the PSNI in 2014 to discontinue their investigation into the allegations of torture against the ‘Hooded Men’ to be unlawful. 

In the landmark judgement handed down on 15 December 2021, the Court commended that the treatment to which the Hooded Men were subjected to would be characterised today as torture. 

The Supreme Court ultimately quashed the decision not to investigate.

In a statement today, the Darragh Mackin, who acts on behalf of the majority of the Hooded Men, confirmed that the PSNI today issued a formal apology to his clients “that recognises the torturous treatment” to which they sustained. 

“The Hooded Men have fought a 10 year campaign for justice. Since their landmark victory before the Supreme Court in December 2021, we have engaged at the very highest level to try and find a resolution for our clients,” Mackin said.

“Today, almost 18 months on, the PSNI have today issued our clients with a formal apology that recognises the torturous treatment to which our clients sustained,” he said. 

“The publication of this apology comes after weeks of intense negotiation in which drew to a close in the days before Mr Joe Clarke tragically passed away.

“In the last days of his life, Mr Clarke was finally delivered closure in the form of an apology, for which he had long since campaigned. This is a seismic development in a seismic case.

Mackin said it is time now for the UK Government and Ministry of Defence to “apologise for their part on these torture techniques”. 

The apology issued by the PSNI reads: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland acknowledges the finding of the United Kingdom Supreme Court that it is likely that the treatment to which you and the other Hooded Men were subjected to at the hands of the security forces, including some police officers, would be characterised today as torture.

“We wish to acknowledge that the treatment you received was not acceptable at that time and is not acceptable by modern standards of policing.

We would like to convey an apology to you for the actions and omissions of police officers at that time.”

In a statement today, PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Saunders said the force wrote to a number of individuals, including the late Clarke, and the next of kin of deceased individuals of the ‘Hooded Men’.

“In this letter, we have acknowledged the findings of the United Kingdom Supreme Court that, by today’s standards, the treatment of these men at that time would likely be characterised as torture,” Saunders said. 

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland has formally apologised for the actions and omissions of police officers involved in their treatment whilst in police custody in 1971,” he said. 

“The Police Service recognise the significant step taken today in issuing this apology. It is our view that this was the right thing to do to help give the ‘Hooded Men’ and their families recognition about how they were treated.”

Former Hooded Men Liam Shannon and Jim Auld described the apology from police as “too little too late”.

In a statement, they called for an apology also from the British Prime Minister and UK Government.

“This apology in some ways is too little too late,” they said. 

“It ought to have been delivered long before now and is only coming on the back of latest legal challenges against the police over their failure to investigate the criminality of the State,” they said.

“We see this as another step on the road to vindication.

“We now call upon the PSNI to remove their objection to our judicial review challenge listed in a few weeks’ time.

“We also now call upon the State to withdraw its insensitive attempt to stop our rightful claims for proper compensation for the horrendous treatment suffered by us.

“This apology must be seen in its proper context. It will only have any real effect if it will be replicated in all outstanding legal cases and leads to the Government apologising as well. Otherwise, it looks like the Government passing the buck and seen as hollow.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the apology from the PSNI as “another step towards justice”.

Eastwood has called on the British Government and British Army to “follow suit and formally apologise to the men who were tortured”. 

In a statement, the Foyle MP said: “I appreciate this apology coming before the death of Joe Clarke so that he could achieve some form of closure after years of campaigning for the apology that was so deserved after what he and his fellow victims went through.

“These men and their families have waited 52 years for this apology and others have unfortunately passed away without seeing it.

“An apology from the PSNI is an essential step towards recognising the ordeal that these men suffered.

“The attention must now turn to the British government and security forces who also owe an apology to these men.” 

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