Saturday 3 December 2016

Court of Appeal to rule on whether secret court hearings can be used to defend damages claim brought by IRA mole

Published 14/07/2015 | 07:11

File photo from 16/06/99: Police activity in Whitley Bay, Tyneside, where IRA informer turned author Martin McGartland was shot. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
File photo from 16/06/99: Police activity in Whitley Bay, Tyneside, where IRA informer turned author Martin McGartland was shot. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The Court of Appeal rules today on whether the Home Secretary can use secret court hearings to defend a damages claim brought by IRA mole Martin McGartland.

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Mr McGartland, with his partner and carer Joanne Asher, are suing MI5 for breach of contract and negligence in his aftercare following a shooting by the IRA which left him unable to work.

Mr McGartland and his partner say their protection by security services agents was "mishandled'.

A former agent of the Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch, Mr McGartland claims the security services failed to provide care for post-traumatic stress disorder and access to disability benefits.

A High Court judge declared that the interests of national security justified Home Secretary Theresa May using secret "closed material proceedings'' (CMPs) when his case comes on for trial.

Mr Justice Mitting said ''sensitive material'' relating to protecting and training security service ''handlers'' arose in the case.

Mr McGartland is asking three appeal judges to overturn the ruling.

Mr McGartland blames ''years of neglect'' by MI5 for leaving him traumatised and unable to work because of his secret life.

The west Belfast man's best-selling book about his experiences, 50 Dead Men Walking, has been made into a film.

Mr Justice Mitting declared that closed procedures for his damages claim were ''in the interests of the fair and effective administration of justice'' and therefore permitted under the Justice and Security Act 2013.

Unless overturned by the appeal judges, the ruling means Mr McGartland, 42, and his lawyers will not be able to hear parts of the case or to see ''sensitive material''.

Special advocates will be appointed to protect his interests.

Powers to hold secret hearings were introduced in July 2013 so that trials using closed procedures can take place in civil courts without damaging national security.

Mr McGartland's lawyers have described such procedures as ''a serious aberration from the tradition of open justice''.

They contend Mr McGartland's claim for damages for personal injury does not pose a risk to national security and will not expose any aspect of his undercover work as an informant against the IRA.

Government lawyers told the court that an assurance of ''secrecy forever'' lies at the heart of the relationship between the British Security Service and its agents.

Press Association

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