29 April 2010 Edition
Charges against RUC should have been considered over killing of Nora McCabe, says Belfast High Court
PERJURY CHARGES should have been considered against RUC officers involved in the plastic bullet killing of mother-of-three Nora McCabe out shopping in west Befast during the 1981 Hunger Strike, the Belfast High Court said on Tuesday.
The pronouncement came during a legal challenge by Nora McCabe’s husband, Jim, to the failure by the Director of Public Prosecutions to file charges of murder or manslaughter against any of the RUC officers involved in killing his wife.
The challenge was ruled out by the court, largely on the long delay in bringing the action.
Nora (33), who had given birth to a baby girl just six weeks earlier, was killed at Linden Street, west Belfast, in July 1981. Nora was returning from shops when she was hit on the back of the head with a baton round during disturbances in the area. She died in hospital the following day.
Incredibly, the Director of Public Prosecutions ruled that there was insufficient evidence to press charges against any of the RUC officers involved.
At the inquest in 1982 into Nora’s killing, the RUC claimed they had been under sustained attack by rioters by way of explanation for the tragedy. However, film footage taken by a Canadian TV crew proved this to be a lie, showing several RUC Land Rovers casually driving along the road, their occupants firing plastic bullets, and moving on until firing again.
In the Belfast High Court on Tuesday, lawyers for the McCabe family alleged officers had closed ranks and lied under oath to protect two colleagues from facing murder charges. (Both the sergeant who fired the fatal plastic bullet shot and his commanding chief superintendent have since died.)
Lord Justice Coghlin, however, declared that, based on all the evidence available in 1983, the decision not to prosecute was one that was open to the DPP and could not be condemned as irrational although, significantly, he went on to say that there was nothing in the papers to suggest consideration had been given to charging police officers with perjury or perverting the course of justice.
He said it was not in doubt that a number of DPP/PPS officers were aware of “significant factual conflicts” between the evidence of a number of police officers and the events depicted on the video film.
The judge said consideration ought to have been given to the offence of perjury.
Lord Justice Coghlin expressed sympathy for Mr McCabe’s “sense of powerlessness and frustration that no one has been made amenable for his wife’s death”.
After the ruling, outside the court, Jim McCabe said:
“I believe this was a classic case of justice delayed, justice denied.
“I’m disappointed that the judges felt that the time lapse was too great – this was through no fault of my own.
“But I feel that I have been vindicated by the ruling that the Public Prosecution Service was wrong not to consider charging the RUC with perjury.
“The manner in which Nora was shot – in the back of the head from a distance of less than 12 feet – leads me to believe it was a premeditated action.”
Both the sergeant who fired the fatal plastic bullet shot and his commanding chief superintendent have since died but Jim McCabe added:
“I didn’t start this to see people in the dock. I started it to find out the truth and, after 29 years, I feel that we have achieved that.”