Jean Smyth-Campbell - British Supreme Court

British Supreme Court Considers PSNI’s Lack of Independence

The British Supreme Court in London is considering whether the Police Service of Northern Ireland is “sufficiently independent to investigate and/or review investigations” into conflict-related killings in the North of Ireland.

In a hugely significant case, the British Supreme Court will consider whether the Legacy Investigations Branch of the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) is “sufficiently independent” to investigate the murder of single mother, Jean Smyth-Campbell, in West Belfast on 8th June 1972. The decision will have ramifications for PSNI investigations into every killing during the conflict.

Without any evidence, the British State attributed the murder of Jean Smyth-Campbell to the Irish Republican Army, but British Army documents proved that the British Army believed its armed forces killed her.

Jean Smyth-Campbell - Supreme Court

Charity, Paper Trail (Legacy Archive Research), discovered secret British Military logs in the National Archives in London in 2014 which referred to the murder. Among many relevant files was a record by the British Army’s Brigade Major in charge of the British military’s operations that night in 1972.

He informed British Army Headquarters Northern Ireland:

“Police are dealing with the dead girl found in the taxi. It is known that SF [British Security Forces] claimed a hit in the KP19 shooting.”


Supreme Court: Brigade Major and Jean Smyth's murder

KP19 referred to Key Point 19 – a British military sangar at a nearby electrical facility.

Later serials also record that the British Army’s clandestine Military Reaction Force fired bullets in the same area and claimed a hit.

Margaret McQuillan is Jean’s sister and the Respondent for the case. She said:

“Our family believes that all families deserve an independent, impartial and timely investigation into the murder of their loved one. The Police Service Northern Ireland should not be part of any investigation as it has failed everybody. PSNI cannot be trusted, now or ever. We hope the Supreme Court will agree with the Appeal Court’s judgement in our case as the Chief Constable of PSNI, Department of Justice and British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have done little but re-traumatize us by appealing it.”

Niall Ó Murchú of Kinnear and Co Solicitors represents the family of Jean Smyth-Campbell. He said:

“This is a hugely important case for all families who lost loved ones during the conflict. Jean’s Smyth-Campbell’s family have fought tenaciously for seven years in court to get to this point. PSNI cannot ever be independent in any legacy case, and in Jean’s case the PSNI were forced to accept that. The investigation into Jean’s murder is ongoing, with no involvement from PSNI. If Jean’s family are successful at the Supreme Court, it will be a great victory for hundreds of families who do not trust PSNI investigating the death of their loved ones.”

Ciarán MacAirt of Paper Trail said:

“Jean’s family continues to inspire us with their resilience and dignity. The family fought failed investigations by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Historical Enquiries Team and Police Service Northern Ireland over 49 years. Their fight for truth, justice and acknowledgement is also a fight shared by hundreds of families whose loved ones were killed during the conflict and who have been very poorly served by Police Service Northern Ireland. PSNI never was and never will be practically independent to investigate conflict killings.”



–        Read more about the Supreme Court case here

–        Read more about the murder of Jean Smyth-Campbell’s murder here.

–        The British Supreme Court is also considering the detention and torture of 12 people in 1971 who have become known as The Hooded Men.

–        For further comment, email Ciarán MacAirt; Niall Ó Murchú


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