In the wake of yesterday’s announcement by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service that no charges are to be laid against seven individuals arrested and questioned by PSNI detectives on foot of subpoenas served on Boston College by the US Department of Justice seeking material concerning the disappearance of Jean McConville, I wish to make the following statement:
Tonight I began the process of lodging a complaint with the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman’s office (OPONI) alleging that PSNI detectives launched their bid to invade the archives of Boston College by offering a member of the McConville family, a person who was in a particularly vulnerable financial position at the time, what amounted to a financial incentive to assist their investigation, or to put it crudely ‘a bribe’.
The detectives told the family member that if he agreed to make a formal complaint, outlining his belief that the Boston College archive held material relevant to the murder and disappearance of his mother, then the detectives would ensure that at the conclusion of their criminal investigation, the material would be made available to him and other members of his family to do with as they wished.
In other words the family would be able to launch a civil claim against individuals they believed responsible for their mother’s death, using the interviews obtained from the Boston College archive. Without that complaint, the PSNI investigation would have been stillborn.
Since the aim of a civil action invariably includes the demand for financial compensation the detectives were clearly offering a monetary incentive to the family member to begin the proceedings that led to the invasion of the Boston College archive. That is why I say the PSNI detectives made an offer that amounted to bribery.
Article 7 (2) of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the USA and the UK states: “The requesting party shall not use or disclose any information or evidence obtained under the Treaty for any purposes other than for the proceedings stated in the request without the prior consent of the requested party.”
At the time that the offer was made by PSNI detectives the disposition of the US government was a complete unknown and so they were in no position to make an offer to hand over any material to the McConville family. In effect, they misled, and even tricked the family member.
I understand that this transaction is already the subject of a separate complaint to the Ombudsman’s office lodged some time ago.
Following the serving of the subpoenas, the then Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez sought and, I am led to believe, secured a commitment from the US authorities that the Boston College material would not be used in civil proceedings.