PPS issues decisions in relation to 1970s attacks

Publication date:

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has issued decisions not to prosecute one individual reported in connection with a number of bombing and gun attacks in the 1970s which resulted in the deaths of ten people.

The investigation file submitted by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland reported one former police officer, referred to as Officer A, for consideration in connection with:

  • The murder of Thomas McNamee who was injured in an explosion at Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, on 29th November 1974 and died almost a year later as a result;
  • The murders of Colm McCartney and Sean Farmer on 24th August 1975 who were found with fatal gunshot wounds at Altnamackin, Co Armagh;
  • The murders of Trevor Brecknell, Patrick Joseph Donnelly, and Michael Francis Donnelly on 19th December 1975 at Silverbridge, Co Armagh.
  • The murders of Anthony, John Martin and Brian Reavey who were shot at their home in Whitecross, Co Armagh, on 4th January 1976;
  • The murder of Patrick Mone on 7th March 1976 as a result of an explosion in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

The prosecution team carefully considered all the available evidence submitted on the investigation file. It was determined that the available evidence was insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.

Martin Hardy, PPS Assistant Director, said: “All decisions as to prosecution are taken by an independent and impartial application of the Test for Prosecution. The standard of proof required to obtain a conviction in a criminal prosecution is high. The prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt, through admissible evidence, the commission of a criminal offence by the suspect. After careful consideration, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction of Officer A for any offence.”

Mr Hardy explained that the key evidence in this case consists of a small number of documentary records containing allegations made by another person that Officer A was involved in the above incidents.

He added: “These allegations are, however, not in the form of witness evidence. Therefore any prosecution of Officer A would require a hearsay application seeking the admission in evidence of these documentary records. Prosecutors carefully considered issues impacting upon the credibility and reliability of this material and the lack of any other admissible evidence to provide independent support of the allegations. It was determined that there is no reasonable prospect of a court granting the application and admitting the evidence. It was considered that even if such an application was granted, given the identified issues with the material, little evidential weight would be attached to the material and, in the absence of other evidence, there is no reasonable prospect of conviction. Accordingly, the Test for Prosecution is not met.

“We have written to the families of the victims to explain in detail the reasons for the decisions reached in respect of their loved ones. Although we understand that this will be deeply disappointing to them, we have assured them that these decisions were taken only after a rigorous evaluation of all the available evidence reported by investigators. We are mindful of the continuing pain and distress of the families who have lived with the loss of their loved one for many decades. We have offered to meet them should they wish to address any questions they may have about the decision.”


Notes to editors

  1. 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.
  2.  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 271804 or 07795 480234.