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16 Handlers Suspected of IRA Double Agent ‘Stakeknife’ Avoid Prosecution

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The Kenova Inquiry has highlighted the infiltration of the IRA by British Intelligence but left families of victims without justice, claims MLA. Sixteen people identified by Operation Kenova as suspected handlers of the double agent, known as Stakeknife during The Troubles, will not face prosecution following an inquiry, it has been announced.

The unnamed individuals, who include one police officer and six military personnel, protected the IRA insider who worked for the republican terror outfit’s notorious “Nutting Squad,” interrogating, torturing and murdering suspected informers during The Troubles.

Although his identity has never been officially confirmed, Stakeknife was outed in the press as Freddie Scappaticci in 2003—a claim he consistently denied until his death in April this year aged 76.

Stakeknife is believed to have tortured and killed several people while he was the British Army’s top mole within the terrorist arm of the republican movement. It has been alleged the UK government allowed up to 40 people to be killed by the “Nutting Squad.”

DUP Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Emma Little-Pengelly said on Twitter, formerly known as X, the decision will be “disappointing and painful” for the families involved, and that, “Once again, justice will be denied.” Ms. Little-Pengelly said the scale of Operation Kenova reiterates how widespread the infiltration of the republican movement was by the British security services.

“Whilst Scappaticci may have been the focus of this investigation, the IRA and the wider republican movement was riddled with informants, and there will be many within its ranks who do not want the full truth to be seen,” she claimed.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for Northern Ireland said it has given careful consideration to five files concerning the 16 individuals reported by Operation Kenova, and believes there is no reasonable prospect of conviction for the alleged crimes of perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.

The ongoing inquiry has so far cost an estimated £37 million, with decisions relating to another 21 individuals across ten further files expected to be announced in early 2024.

The inquiry received 26 files in total and examined crimes, including murder and torture linked to Stakeknife and the role played by the security services, including MI5, in allowing such activities as part of its infiltration of the Provisional IRA.

In Oct. 2020, it said a decision had been taken not to prosecute four individuals reported, and earlier this year it announced a formal “no decision” outcome in relation to ten of the files as they contained just one suspect who died in 2023. Undated image of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) sniper warning sign overlooking the Bogside area of Derry in Northern Ireland. (Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images)

The files also related to three civilian suspects in connection with a murder in 1981, two civilian suspects in connection with a murder in 1987, two civilian suspects in connection with a murder in 1993, and two civilian suspects in connection with false imprisonment and conspiracy to murder one victim in 1990.

The PPS said victims and families directly impacted by the decisions have received a detailed written explanation of the reasons, along with an offer to meet to discuss the information provided.

Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron acknowledged the latest decision not to prosecute would be a disappointment to family members of some of the victims of the double agent.

“The challenges in prosecuting legacy cases are well known. The events with which these decisions are concerned took place several decades ago, and the witness and forensic evidence available was limited,” he said.

Mr. Herron added that a significant body of the material considered by the PPS included intelligence records and that it was not possible to use such sensitive information in these cases to bring prosecutions.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, whose firm KRW Law acts for families affected, said they will seek a review of the decisions by the PPS.

However, he said the decisions came as “no surprise” to the families following the death of Mr. Scappaticci—the Belfast-born son of Italian immigrants—earlier this year.

Mr. Winters also queried when the public report following Operation Kenova will be published.

The investigation was led by former Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher, who is now chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Boutcher indicated last month that he handed over the report before his recent appointment, and believes it is ready to be published.

“The termination of any potential criminal inquisition into the so-called Stakeknife affair only heightens expectations for delivery of truth and justice in pending private family reports.

“After today’s setback, it’s really the very least the next of kin and others can expect.”

PA contributed to this report.



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