The Scottish Mail on Sunday

A lifetime seeking justice for the powerless, Sir Keir?

Would that include the men in IRA jailbreak where guard was shot – and the jihadi suspect who sued Britain over his human rights?


AS PART of his bid to become the next Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer has made political capital out of his legal career by highlighti­ng the cases he has pursued on behalf of the ‘underdog’.

But there are some cases he appears to have airbrushed out of his CV – including representi­ng convicted IRA terrorists who staged a botched jailbreak in which a prison guard was shot, and then sued for injuries they sustained.

He also teamed up with a notorious human rights lawyer to free a suspected Iraqi terrorist who plotted to bomb British troops in Iraq.

Barrister Sir Keir, who was Director of Public Prosecutio­ns from 2008 to 2014, used his leadership launch video to flag up his work as a human rights campaigner. He declared: ‘I have spent my life fighting for justice, standing up for the powerless and against the powerful.’

But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that in 1994, Starmer represente­d a group of men following an escape from HMP Whitemoor in Cambridges­hire.

The break-out included Liam McCotter, convicted IRA terrorist in prison for conspiracy to cause explosions, Gilbert ‘Danny’ McNamee, who was convicted and subsequent­ly acquitted over the IRA Hyde Park bombing, and Andrew Russell, an armed robber serving 20 years for crimes that included hijacking a helicopter.

The legal challenge cost the British taxpayer £500,000 and saw McNamee awarded £5,000 and Russell £2,500 in damages.

In 2006, Starmer represente­d Hilal Al-Jedda, detained in a British facility in Basra under suspicion of ‘recruiting terrorists outside of Iraq with a view to the commission of atrocities there’. Al Jedda, who had dual British and Iraqi citizenshi­p, was also detained for helping a known terrorist explosives expert travel to Iraq and conspiring with him to target coalition forces around Fallujah and Baghdad. He was also believed to have conspired with an Islamist terror cell in the Gulf to smuggle detonation equipment into Iraq.

Acting under the instructio­n of Public Interest Lawyers, a now defunct firm run by disgraced human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, Starmer headed the legal team which sued the Government over a breach to Al-Jedda’s human rights. In 2007 the House of Lords ruled the detention of the suspected terrorist was lawful, but that ruling was then overturned in 2011 by the

European courts. In 2017, Shiner was struck off the roll of solicitors after earning more than £1.6million from an improper deal carving up fees from pursuing abuse claims against British troops. Last night Mark Tipper, whose brother

Trooper Simon Tipper was killed in the Hyde Park bombing, said: ‘Starmer has defended terrorists and violent criminals who break out of prison then sue the prison service, costing the taxpayer a fortune – that is clearly wrong.’ And

Starmer was criticised by former Labour Home Office Minister Kate Hoey, who said: ‘Keir Starmer likes to talk up his credential­s as a human rights campaigner. However there is quite a lot of airbrushin­g of his CV going on here and the truth about his career outside politics is a good deal more complicate­d than this.

‘What you won’t hear Keir Starmer talk about is how he defended IRA terrorists suing the British taxpayer for injuries they sustained after breaking out of prison, how he worked with disgraced solicitor Phil Shiner to prevent British troops from detaining a suspected Iraqi terrorist.’

Ms Hoey added: ‘Of course everyone is entitled to legal representa­tion, however, I am not sure where this fits Keir Starmer’s frequently stated synopsis of his career as “fighting for justice, standing up for the powerless and against the powerful”.

‘As a potential political leader he must be much more transparen­t about his previous work’.

Last night Sir Keir was unavailabl­e for comment.

‘A lot of airbrushin­g of his CV going on here’

THE families of three young British soldiers murdered in an infamous IRA ‘honey trap’ are demanding a fresh inquiry after uncovering startling new evidence that could help bring the killers to justice.

Brothers John and Joseph McCaig, aged 17 and 18, and their friend Dougald McCaughey, 23, were executed on a remote road in Belfast by an IRA hit squad in 1971 after apparently being lured to their deaths by two attractive women they had met in a bar.

The deaths of the Royal Highland Fusiliers – the first off-duty soldiers to be killed by the IRA – sparked a wave of revulsion and opened a new blood-soaked chapter in The Troubles, yet no one has ever been convicted.

Now, almost half a century later, the families’ legal team has gained access to previously unseen police files which reveal:

The IRA may have planned the soldiers’ murders for days, with up to ten conspirato­rs involved in the plot;

The name of one of the women said to be involved in the ‘honey trap’, whose brother and father were IRA members, and who could be alive and living in England;

One of those suspected of involvemen­t in the murders was a former British Paratroope­r turned ruthless IRA hitman called Paddy O’Kane.

Only one of the alleged IRA execution team, Anthony ‘Dutch’ Doherty, has ever been arrested over the killings, but he escaped from prison in 1971. It was thought that Doherty had died, but The Mail on Sunday last week tracked him down to a terraced house in North Dublin.

He angrily refused to answer questions about the murders.

The families are raising money to fund their legal campaign and their battle for justice has been given fresh impetus by the extraditio­n of Hyde Park bombing suspect John Downey for the alleged murder of two Army volunteers in 1972.

Downey, whose prosecutio­n for the alleged murder of four soldiers in Hyde Park collapsed in 2004 when it emerged he had received a so-called ‘on-the-run’ letter, was extradited from the Irish Republic to Northern Ireland last October.

The soldiers’ relatives hope a new inquest will produce sufficient evidence to trigger a fresh police inquiry and the eventual extraditio­n of suspects to the UK to face trial. David McCaughey, Dougald’s 52-year-old cousin, said: ‘This new informatio­n finally gives us hope that we will one day have the full truth and see justice for Dougald, John and Joseph.

‘We must have an inquest so we can finally have the complete account of what happened and bring the killers who are still alive to the courts. It’s been nearly 50 years and it’s time we had justice.’

The three soldiers had been given the afternoon off and were drinking in Belfast’s bars when they were lured to their deaths on March 10, 1971.

They were befriended by a group of Provisiona­l IRA terrorists and two women during a pub crawl which lasted five hours.

The young soldiers were lured away to a remote country road where IRA gunmen were lying in wait. They were killed with gunshots to the back of the head.

The murders triggered huge protests across Northern Ireland and caused revulsion across both Catholic and Protestant communitie­s in Belfast.

Despite a manhunt led by Scotland Yard, no one has been brought to justice, but the new evidence has prompted the victims’ families to write to Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin to request a new inquest.

It comes as 200 former members of the British security services are still being investigat­ed for alleged criminal action during The Troubles, with at least four prosecutio­ns under way for murder or attempted murder.

Matthew Jury, of McCue & Partners, lawyers for the families, said: ‘There are a number of unanswered questions and suspects who were not previously spoken to by the police.

‘Those who are still alive must be brought to justice and all avenues must be pursued. The families will not rest until these people answer for their crimes. That’s why we are calling for a fresh inquest and government backing.’

‘We won’t rest until they answer for their crimes’

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Keir Starmer, top, and – left to right – Gilbert ‘Danny’ McNamee, terrorist Liam McCotter and disgraced lawyer
Phil Shiner
COMPLEX PAST: Sir Keir Starmer, top, and – left to right – Gilbert ‘Danny’ McNamee, terrorist Liam McCotter and disgraced lawyer Phil Shiner

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