Fighting impunity in Northern Ireland
Fighting impunity in Northern Ireland
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I am Martha Seaman. My son was Private Tony Harrison. Tony served two tours of duty with the British Army in Northern Ireland and was engaged to be married to a local woman. He was gunned down while off duty and at his fiancee's home on 19 June 1991. He was just 21 years old.
His killers were never prosecuted even though we know that an IRA-RUC double-agent named Martin McGartland was involved in the killing and that the identities of his murderers were known to the police.
The Government promised my family that efforts to bring Tony's murderers to justice were 'very much alive'; and has acknowledged that the failure to hold his killers to account is a 'cruel addition' to my grief. Tony's case has been opened and held by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland for some years, awaiting its turn for investigation. I am elderly and not in good health and time is of the essence but I was always hopeful that one day justice would be done for my son.
Any hope of one day finding justice for Tony has been taken away from me by the Government's Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy & Reconciliation) Act. At a stroke, it closes down all Troubles-related criminal investigations, inquests, Police Ombudsman investigations and civil claims for compensation and replaces them with a single review body that will 'look into' a death and produce a paper report about it. Killers can give information - information that can be largely untested and uncorroborated - to the review body for inclusion in a report, in exchange for a complete immunity from prosecution. My family does not want a report. Like countless other bereaved families from all sides, we already know who was involved in the killing. We want his killers investigated, the collusion exposed and we want justice.
The Government states that it is doing this in the interests of victims, service personnel, veterans and their families - but like so many others victims, any bereaved military family or service person that lost a loved one in Northern Ireland and who never saw anyone convicted for it will be denied justice by this law. I am aware that there are currently at least 225 open police investigations into unsolved crimes - including murder and other terrorist atrocities - committed against members of the armed forces from the Troubles, all of which will now close. Thousands of other police investigations, coroner's inquests and civil claims will close. Communities and political parties across the political spectrum are united in opposition to the proposals. My family has met with the bereaved families of people that were killed by British soldiers to share our common grief and alarm at these proposals. We wrote - together - to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about our concerns. We did not even have the courtesy of a reply. This Bill will be bad for the armed forces, for bereaved military families, for the civilian victims of paramilitary crimes, whether loyalist or republican, and bad for civilians killed by the actions of some British soldiers.
Please will you help my family challenge this Bill and support our legal fund?
We intend to bring a judicial review of this piece of legislation. We are seeking a court declaration that the Act fundamentally breaches our human rights. We want to start our 'pre-action' legal and advocacy work now. We want to build a legal fund, to ensure we have enough money put aside so that we can apply for a 'costs capping order' from the court when we issue the challenge, and pay our legal fees. If we can raise enough funds, we hope the court will agree that even if we lose the case, we will not be ordered to pay the Government back the money it spends on its own legal fees, over and above that which we have been able to raise here. If not enough funding is raised, then we will not be able to go ahead.
Our legal team is:
Emma Norton, solicitor at the Centre for Military Justice, a charity:
Jesse Nicholls, at Matrix Chambers
We would like to try and raise £2,500 if we can, with a stretch target of £10,000. Please help us.
You can read more about my son's story here, written by his brother:
You can read a detailed briefing on the Bill here:
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