Report of the enquiry into allegations against the security forces of physical brutality in Northern Ireland arising out of events on the 9th August, 1971
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Government Reports and Acts
Report of the enquiry into allegations
Presented to Parliament by the Secretay of State for the Home Department
by Command of Her Majesty
Published in London by,
SBN 10 148230 2
Crown copyright material has been reproduced under licence from the
Controller of Her Majesty's Stationary Office.
Full text available at UK Parliamentary Papers permalink:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. COURSE OF PROCEEDINGS
3. NATURE OF EVIDENCE
4. THE ARREST AND HOLDING OPERATION
5. PATTERN OF COMPLAINTS
6. DETAILS OF ALLEGATIONS, EVIDENCE AND CONCLUSIONS
7. MEDICAL ARRANGEMENTS
APPENDIX - LIST OF COMPLAINANTS
1. On the 31st August 1971, I appointed a Committee of Inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Edmund Compton, G.C.B., K.B.E.. with His Honour Edgar Fay, Q.C., and Dr. Ronald Gibson, C.B.E., as members, with the following terms of reference:
" To investigate allegations by those arrested on 9th August under
the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922 of physical
brutality while in the custody of the security forces prior to either their
subsequent release, the preferring of a criminal charge or their being
lodged in a place specified in a detention order ".
2. The Committee of Inquiry visited Northern Ireland from 1st September
until 26th October and have new sent me their report which is published
in this Command Paper.
3. The Government are grateful for the care and thoroughness with which
the members of the Committee of Inquiry carried out their difficult task.
The Situation in Northern Ireland
4. In considering the Committee's report it is important to have in
mind the circumstances in Northern Ireland in which the Northern Ireland
Government decided to exercise their powers under the Civil Authorities
(Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922 to arrest, detain or intern
persons suspected of having acted or being about to act in a manner prejudicial
to the preservation of the peace or the maintenance of order.
5. At the beginning of February this year the I.R.A. began to increase
the ferocity of their well-established campaign of violence. A marked increase
in intensity occurred in July, and has been maintained up to the present
time. This campaign of murder and intimidation has included gun attacks
on military and police patrols, explosive attacks on offices and buildings,
together with indiscriminate bombing of occupied buildings in the cities,
killing and injuring members of the general public. More recently there
has been a concerted attack on individual police officers, police premises
and the homes of police officers. Since August 1969 104 civilians, 12 members
of the R.U.C. and 38 members of the Armed Forces are known to have been
killed; and many civilians and members of the Armed Forces have been injured,
some seriously. There have been over 1,000 incidents involving explosives.,
and the weight of explosives used by the terrorists so far has been calculated
at about 11,000 lbs. Up to the morning of 10th November 1971, the security
forces had uncovered 293 pistols and revolvers, 234 rifles, 24 machine
guns, 116 shotguns, 123,614 rounds of ammunition, over 11 tons of explosives,
1,607 pipe, petrol and nail bombs, 154 grenades, 26 gallons of acid, and
large quantities of fuses, detonators and electric cable. These figures
refer only to arms found in Northern Ireland; they do not include, for
example, the large quantity of arms recently discovered at Amsterdam.
6 The aims of the I.R.A. are to intimidate the population by brutal
terrorism and so to prevent any co-operation with the Government, the police
and the courts of law; to inhibit normal political activity and constitutional
progress., and to cause the public in Great Britain to become so sickened
by the ceaseless bloodshed and destruction that the Army's withdrawal will
come to be seen as the lesser of two evils. No responsible Government can
afford to yield to pressures of this kind.
Introduction of Internment
7. The preservation of law and order in Northern Ireland is primarily
the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Government. By July and early
August the deterioration in the situation in Northern Ireland had reached
the point where they felt it necessary, with the agreement of Her Majesty's
Government, to resort to their powers of internment.
8. In announcing the decision to introduce internment on the 9th August, 1971, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. Brian Faulkner, said:
" If Northern Ireland is to survive and prosper, two things are
essential. We must sustain a continuing programme of economic and social
development, and we must find the means to create a more united society
here - one in which all men of goodwill, however divergent their legitimate
political views, may participate to the full. These things are, and will
continue to be, the aims of our policy.
"Neither will be possible in a climate of terrorism and violence.
The outrages to which we have been subjected now threaten our economic
life and create every day deeper divisions and antagonism within our community.
These, indeed, are the clear objects of those who carry them out.
"Every means has been tried to make terrorists amenable to the
law. Nor have such methods been without success, because a substantial
number of the most prominent leaders of the I.R.A. are now serving ordinary
prison sentences. But the terrorist campaign continues at an unacceptable
level, and I have had to conclude that the ordinary law cannot deal comprehensively
or quickly enough with such ruthless viciousness.
"I have therefore decided, after weighing all the relevant considerations, including the views of the security authorities and after consultation with Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom last Thursday, to exercise where necessary the powers of detention and internment vested in me as Minister of Home Affairs".
9. 342 men were arrested on the Monday, 9th August; and the arrests
of others under the Special Powers Act have continued. 980 had been arrested
by midday on the 10th November, 1971. In each case very careful consideration
was given to the question whether an internment order was necessary. In
the event 299 had been interned by the 10th November and were being held
at Long Kesh internment camp. 104 were being held under detention orders
in Belfast Prison. 508 had been released and 69 were being held pending
a decision on the making of detention orders.
10. Wherever possible, the normal processes of law are followed. Since
the 9th August 1971, over 300 persons have been arrested and charged in
the ordinary way with offences arising from civil disturbances.
11. An advisory committee under Regulation 12 of the Special Powers
Act has been set up under the chairmanship of His Honour Judge Brown to
review the cases of all those against whom internment orders are made.
The members are Mr. R. W. Berkeley and Mr. P. N. Dalton. The rate of progress
of this review is dependent on the time required to work up cases for its
consideration; but at the 2nd November 99 cases had been reviewed. In 10
cases the Advisory Committee had recommended release to the Minister of
Home Affairs of the Northern Ireland Government. All ten of these internees
have been released and two further releases have been made on the advice
of the R.U.C.
Allegations of Physical Brutality
12. A number of allegations were made about the treatment of those who
were arrested on the 9th August. I though it right that these allegations
should be investigated by an impartial inquiry; and it was for this reason
that I appointed the Committee whose report has now been presented to me.
The Committee's Findings
13. The capacity of the I.R.A. for indicative retaliation needs no emphasis.
I therefore asked the Committee to adopt procedures which were designed
to protect the lives of those who had conducted the arrests and interrogations.
Nevertheless, every individual who believed that he had grounds of complaint
had the opportunity to put his case forward and was assured of a full and
impartial hearing. Hardly any did so. The Committee carried out a thorough
examination of the evidence, both oral and documentary, put forward by
members of the security forces. In the great majority of cases they set
against it nothing more than unsubstantiated and uncorroborated allegations
which is all that they had before them. In many cases the Committee themselves
have felt unable to carry the matter any further; but in the Government's
view the balance of credibility is clear.
14. The allegations which the Committee have examined fall broadly into
two classes, those relating to the initial arrests and a small number concerned
with the subsequent process of interrogation. As regards the initial arrests
it is clear from the report that there were very few complaints and those
there were had, in the Committee's view, very little substance. The record
of events reflects great credit on the security forces, who carried out
a difficult and dangerous operation in adverse circumstances with commendable
restraint and discipline. The more serious allegations which the Committee
were able to investigate relate to the subsequent interrogation in depth
of 11 individuals. Here again the Committee have found no evidence of physical
brutality, still less of torture or brain-washing. Their findings about
physical ill-treatment do, however, raise certain questions about the detailed
application of the general rules governing interrogation.
15. These rules are summarised in the Government's evidence to the Committee (paragraph 46) which also points out that:
"The precise application of these general rules in particular circumstances is inevitably to some extent a matter of judgment on the part of those immediately responsible for the operations in question. Intelligence is the key to successful operations against terrorists, and the key to intelligence is information regarding their operations, their dispositions and their plans. When combating a terrorist campaign, time is of the essence; information must be sought while it is still fresh so that it may be used as quickly as possible to effect the capture of persons, arms and explosives, and thereby save the lives of members of the security forces and of the civil population ".
16. In the present circumstances of Northern Ireland, as described in
paragraphs 3-5 of this note, it is imperative to obtain all available intelligence
in order to save the lives of civilians and members of the security forces;
and it is therefore essential to interrogate suspects who are believed
to have important information. The principles applied in the interrogation
of suspects in Northern Ireland since August this year, and the methods
employed (which are necessary not only for reasons of security and control
but also to protect the lives of those being interrogated against the risk
of reprisals), are the same as those which have been employed in all emergencies
of this kind in which Britain has been involved in recent years. The rules
now in force, as summarised in paragraph 46 of the report, were issued
in 1965 and were revised in 1967 in the light of recommendations made by
Mr. Roderick Bowen QC in a report on the procedures for the arrest, interrogation
and detention of suspected terrorists in Aden (Cmnd 3165).
Action by the Government
17. The Government reject any suggestion that the methods currently
authorised for interrogation contain any element of cruelty or brutality.
The report of the Committee confirms this view. But it also brings out
the difficulty of implementing the rules in detail in circumstances in
which rigorous and intensive interrogation is vitally and urgently necessary.
The Government have therefore decided that it would be right to make arrangements
for examining and providing authoritative advice upon the procedures for
the interrogation of persons suspected of involvement in a terrorist campaign,
including their custody while subject to interrogation, and the application
of those procedures.
18. The main strain of protecting the population in Northern Ireland falls upon the Armed Forces and the RUC. It is clear from the Committee's report, and from personal observation by a large number of responsible witnesses from all walks of life, that the security forces have discharged their onerous duties with the utmost restraint despite the provocations of which the Press and other public media give us daily evidence. The Government do not regard the findings of the Committee as in any way reflecting adversely on the responsibility and discipline with which the security forces in Northern Ireland are conducting their fight against a vicious and ruthless enemy.
1. We were appointed on the 31st August, 1971, by the Secretary of State for the Home Department with the following terms of reference: -
"To investigate allegations by those arrested on the 9th August under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922 of physical brutality while in the custody of the security forces prior to either their subsequent release, the preferring of a criminal charge or their being lodged in a place specified in a detention order."
2. In our letter of appointment the Secretary of State said that these terms of reference included in our Enquiry complaints of physical brutality in respect of a small number of persons who were interrogated in depth after a detention order had been made against them: these persons were made the subject of a removal order and were lodged for a short period in a place other than that specified in the detention order.
3. The Secretary of State also informed us that in order to ensure the
personal safety of members of the security forces against whom allegations
might be made, it was necessary that our Enquiry should be undertaken in
private and that there should be no opportunity for a confrontation between
complainants and members of the security forces against whom complaints
were made. At the outset the Secretary of State indicated that legal representation
would not be appropriate: but on the 3rd September he reviewed this direction,
and suggested that the essentially private nature of our Enquiry could
still be safeguarded if both complainants and those complained against
were permitted, if they desired it, to be accompanied by a legal representative
when they appeared before us; such legal representatives would not however
be permitted to cross-examine witnesses or given access as of right to
transcripts of evidence.
4. In the event, for the reasons we give below, complainants did not
avail themselves of these facilities for legal representation. On the other
hand, many of the army and police personnel complained against were so
represented when we took evidence from them.
The arrest and detention operation with which we are concerned, relates
to 342 men arrested on the 9th August and subsequently released (105 men)
or detained (237 men).
The operation was in two parts:-
We have investigated allegations made by 40 of the men arrested on the
9th August. Except in one case, the complainants have not appeared before
us to substantiate their allegations. One has communicated with us in writing;
in other cases we have acted on complainants' statements published by the
Press or otherwise transmitted to us.
In the course of our investigation we have had full disclosure of contemporary
documentation by the army alid police, and we have made particular use
of the medical records for testing allegations of physical ill-treatment.
We have visited the three Regional Holding Centres and the two places of
Detention, the Maidstone and Crumlin Jail. We have taken oral evidence
from 95 army, 26 police, and 11 prison personnel, and from 11 doctors.
We report on 5 groups of allegations and 20 individual allegations.
As regards the group allegations:-
Group 1 - Questioning in Depth (11 names)
Group 2 - Hellcopter Incident, Girdwood (6 names)
Group 3 - "Obstacle Course" Girdwood (12 names)
Group 4 - Late Releases on the 10th August, Girdwood (3 names)
Group 5 - Special Exercises at Ballykinler (5 names)
Individual Cases (20 names)
We draw attention to defects in the administrative arrangements regarding
medical cover for the arrest and holding operation generally, and
for Girdwood Park Holding Centre in particular.
3rd November, 1971.
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