The family of murdered mother, Jean Smyth-Campbell, won an historic legal battle against the Police Service of Northern Ireland on Friday (3rd March 2017).

The application for Judicial Review centred on:

  • The failed Historical Enquiries Team’s (HET) review of the murder of Jean Smyth-Campbell and its review of other Military Reaction Force (MRF) killings
  • The on-going failures of the Chief Constable, the Department of Justice and Northern Ireland Office’s handling of the case
  • The failure of the Chief Constable and PSNI to produce historic Inquest files

The family fought to ensure that the PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) would not lead any investigation of Jean’s murder as the police was not independent and not compliant of Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Central to the family’s case were British military archives which Paper Trail found in 2014 and offered to the family. These proved that Jean was killed by the British Army and not Republican paramilitaries as the police asserted. In the frame for the murder too was a clandestine unit of the Military Reaction Force which we now know deliberately killed civilians in 1972.

Mr. Justice Maguire provided a searing indictment of investigations by the police – past and present. He then judged that:

“for the investigation to go forward now under the auspices of the LIB would be wrong as in the circumstances the PSNI would not be perceived as passing the test for independence for this purpose”

He concluded that:

“the proposed investigation by the LIB… conflicts with the requirements of Article 2 ECHR as the LIB lack the requisite independence required to perform an Article 2 compliant investigation in respect of this death.”

Niall Ó Murchú, legal representative of human rights firm, Madden and Finucane,  and Vice-Chair of Paper Trail, has been working tirelessly for the family and supporting the learned counsel, Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh and Hugh Southey QC. After the historic ruling he correctly summed up the importance of the case for us all:

“This is a very important judgment for not only the Campbell family but also potentially many other families who are seeking properly independent and article 2 compliant investigations into their loved ones’ deaths.”

Legal Precedent

The ruling set legal precedent in its judgement of the PSNI lacking independence to investigate the murder.

This is highly significant for hundreds of other families who lost loved ones during the conflict that do not trust the police to investigate the killings because of  an ingrained, institutional bias.

For many of families, the DNA of the PSNI is inextricably linked to that of the RUC, and they believe that PSNI has proved it is more interested in denial and delay rather than truth and justice.

In the case of the murder of Jean, the court seems to agree.

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