Maíria Cahill allegations: Sir Keir Starmer opens prosecution cases review

By Vincent Kearney
BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

Media caption,
Sir Keir Starmer said it was important to meet the complainants early in the process

A human rights lawyer has begun a review of how the public prosecution service dealt with three cases linked to the alleged rape of a Belfast woman and claims of an IRA cover-up.

Sir Keir Starmer is a former head of the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales.

Maíria Cahill spent an hour on Friday outlining her concerns about the way her allegations were handled.

She claims an IRA member raped her when she was a teenager.

Image caption,
The PPS announced the independent review of three prosecution cases linked to Maíria Cahill's allegations days after she spoke to the BBC Spotlight programme

She has accused the police and Public Prosecution Service of failing to properly investigate her allegations.

Three separate trials later collapsed after she and other witnesses withdrew their evidence.

A man accused of rape and IRA membership, and four others facing IRA charges, were all acquitted.

Ms Cahill claims that one reason that happened is because it took more than four years for the cases to go to court.

Speaking on Friday, Ms Cahill said: "I welcome the fact that he (Sir Keir Starmer) has been brought in very, very quickly which, I believe, is a vindication of the fact of my frustration at how the court process evolved.

"There was a hierarchy when it came to alleged abusers and that hierarchy came in when those abusers also had the mantle of the IRA which they could then use to doubly instil fear in the victim."

This review is examining whether the Public Prosecution Service was at fault.

Sir Keir said: "It was very important for me to meet the complainants very early in the process so that I could assure them as to how I was going to conduct the review, engage with them and do my best to ensure they had confidence in the process.

"So I'm very grateful to them for taking the time today to meet me, to share their concerns with me and to have done so at this early stage."

Sir Keir rejected any suggestion that his review would be simply a box ticking exercise.

Justice Minister David Ford and Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said on Friday that they have not ruled out the possibility of a cross-border inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse by members of the IRA.

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