PPS issues decisions on files submitted by Operation Kenova

Publication date:

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has today taken decisions not to prosecute 15 individuals reported by Operation Kenova in relation to its investigation into an alleged agent known as Stakeknife.

After a thorough and careful consideration of a large volume of material and information submitted to the PPS on five files, it has been concluded that there is insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for any of those reported. 

The decisions not to prosecute were taken in relation to:  

  • Three civilian suspects in connection with a murder in 1981;
  • Two civilian suspects in connection with a murder in 1987; 
  • One civilian suspect in connection with a murder in 1993; 
  • Two civilian suspects in connection with the false imprisonment of, and conspiracy to murder, one victim in January 1990; 
  • One police officer and six military personnel in connection with allegations of perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office. 

The cases referenced have been anonymised by the PPS on the advice of Operation Kenova after consultation with the victims and families involved. This approach is intended to minimise the potential re-traumatisation of those involved and is in keeping with the victim-centred approach of the investigation. 

All parties directly related to the decisions taken in connection with the specific incidents outlined above have received from the PPS a detailed written explanation of the reasons, along with an offer to meet to discuss the information provided. 

In recognition of the significant public interest in these decisions, the PPS has today also published a detailed public statement setting out the decision-making process that was applied in each of these five files, together with reasons for the conclusions reached. 

The public statement sets out some of the background to Operation Kenova and also a number of general evidential challenges that arose in the context of these cases. It also provides a summary of the evidence available in each case and the reasons why it was concluded that there were no reasonable prospects of convictions.

Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said the decisions were taken independently and impartially by an experienced team of senior prosecutors, assisted by independent counsel.

He said: “I acknowledge that today’s decisions will be a reminder of the painful and harrowing circumstances of how some Operation Kenova families lost a loved one, and we are seeking to minimise any further trauma caused by revisiting these cases publicly. I can assure victims, families and the wider public, that all prosecution decisions were taken carefully, impartially and wholly independently.

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. A significant body of the material that prosecutors considered included intelligence records. For reasons which we have sought to explain in detail in the public statement, it was not possible to use this material in these cases in order to bring prosecutions. 

“Such material may, however, allow Operation Kenova to form a view as to what happened in particular cases and to provide answers to the questions that families may have about the circumstances in which they lost their loved one.”

A further ten files relating to this specific Operation Kenova investigation remain under active consideration. It is anticipated that the decisions on these files will issue in early 2024. The victims and families directly involved will be kept informed on progress by the PPS. 


Notes to Editors

  1. A detailed public statement on the decisions can be read on the PPS website

  2. The total number of files received by the PPS in relation to this specific Operation Kenova investigation is 26.

  3. This includes one file containing four individuals in which decisions issued in October 2020. Please see the statement on the PPS website

  4. The PPS subsequently issued a formal ‘no decision’ outcome in relation to ten of the files as they contained just one suspect who died in 2023. Please see the statement on the PPS website.

  5. Decisions in relation to 10 further files remain outstanding. It is anticipated that those outstanding decisions will issue in early 2024. 

  6. PPS decisions are taken in accordance with the Test for Prosecution, which involves two stages. The Test for Prosecution is met if, in relation to an identifiable suspect, the available evidence is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of a conviction (the Evidential Test) and if prosecution is in the public interest (the Public Interest Test). Further detail is contained in the Code for Prosecutors.

  7. Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing ppspressoffice@ppsni.gov.uk inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 271 804 or 07795 480234.

  8. Further information can be found on the Operation Kenova website.