One of Britain’s most important alleged agents inside the IRA has avoided a charge of perjury that could have resulted in him being cross-examined in court about his role in the “Stakeknife” spy scandal.
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland concluded on Thursday that there was “insufficient evidence” to put the state agent known as Stakeknife on trial for the offence.
Its director in the region, Stephen Herron, also ruled out any prosecutions with regard to misconduct in public office by two former members of the security forces who are understood to have been the agent’s handlers, as well a former member of the PPS.
The PPS’s decision means there is no prospect of the spy appearing in any criminal trial despite a multimillion-pound police investigation into his role as a state agent inside the IRA.
The agent was allegedly implicated in acts of murder and torture while leading the IRA’s mole-hunter teams.
Reports have widely named Freddie Scappaticci as Stakeknife. The 73-year-old from Belfast was accused of running the IRA spy-catching unit that interrogated and killed members of the organisation accused of being informers. All the time it is alleged he was an undercover British agent passing high-grade intelligence about the IRA’s inner workings to the state. Scappaticci has denied being Stakeknife.
The PPS ruling on Thursday is connected to affidavits sworn between 2003 and 2006 as well as a decision taken not to prosecute Scappaticci in 2007. The PPS examined if Scappaticci committed perjury in court by denying he was Stakeknife.
The case relates to Operation Kenova, an inquiry into the Stakeknife controversy headed by Jon Boutcher, a former Bedfordshire police chief constable.
Outlining his reasons for not prosecuting all four individuals, Herron said: “After a thorough analysis of all available evidence and with the benefit of independent advice from highly experienced senior counsel, I have concluded that in each case there is insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for any offence. In these circumstances the evidential test for prosecution was not met. The second limb of the test for prosecution, which relates to the public interest in bringing proceedings, did not therefore fall to be applied.”
In the summer Boutcher told a parliamentary committee that his investigation into the Stakeknife scandal would not result in any criminal prosecutions. The PPS decision in effect means the man accused of being the agent described by one senior British army general as “the jewel in the crown” of intelligence assets inside the IRA will never appear in court.