PPS issues further decisions on files submitted by Operation Kenova

Publication date:

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

They are two former soldiers who worked as agent handlers within the Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) in the 1980s and two individuals alleged to have been members of the Provisional IRA at the time of the relevant incidents. 

The four were reported to the PPS for consideration across six files submitted by Operation Kenova investigators. Evidence on these files related to ten different incidents which happened in the early 1980s, including four murders. 

The decisions not to prosecute were taken in relation to:

  • The abduction and murder of one victim in 1981; 
  • The separate abduction and murder of a second victim in 1981; 
  • The 1981 abduction of one victim who was subsequently rescued; 
  • A conspiracy to abduct one victim in 1981; 
  • The abductions of four victims in 1981, one of whom escaped and three of whom suffered a kneecapping; 
  • The abduction and murder of one victim in 1982; and 
  • The abduction of two victims in 1984, one of whom was murdered while the other was released. 

In each of the decisions above, it was concluded that there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for any individual reported. 

Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said: “The materials submitted by Operation Kenova investigators are extensive and present a complex picture for prosecutors to analyse and assess. This has required us to take a phased approach to the issue of prosecution decisions. After a thorough consideration of the material and information submitted in relation to these ten incidents, it has been concluded that there is insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. 

“Prosecutors again faced significant challenges when considering the use of intelligence records as evidence in criminal proceedings, particularly when original source materials were no longer available.” 

Mr Herron added: “As has been the approach agreed with investigators to previous phases of Operation Kenova decisions, we are keen to avoid causing any further trauma to victims and families. The cases outlined have therefore been anonymised by the PPS to minimise the potential re-traumatisation of those involved. I appreciate, however, that today’s decisions will no doubt cause upset and pain. I can offer reassurance that these decisions were considered impartially and wholly independently by an experienced team of senior prosecutors, who were assisted by independent counsel.

“All victims and families connected to the incidents will have received from the PPS a detailed written explanation of the reasons for the decisions, along with an offer to meet to discuss the information provided.”

As before, and in recognition of the significant public interest in these decisions, the PPS has published a detailed statement setting out the background to each of the ten incidents and reasons for the decisions that have been taken. 

The statement also includes background information on matters such as the structures and operating protocols of the FRU and the issues arising from the absence of satisfactory agent handling guidelines at the time.

The PPS understands that Operation Kenova will provide specific family reports in due course to those whose loved ones were killed in any of the incidents covered by this public statement. The PSNI is also due to publish the Operation Kenova interim report on 8th March 2024.

A further six files relating to the Operation Kenova investigation now remain under active consideration by the PPS. It is anticipated that decisions on these files will issue at the end of February. 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 now stands at 28.
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. The PPS position after the death of this suspect is available on the PPS website.
5. In December 2023, the PPS issued decisions on a further five files received. Please see a statement relating to these decisions on the PPS website.
6. After today’s announcement, decisions in relation to six further files remain outstanding.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Further information can be found on the Operation Kenova website