Ciarán Shiels of Madden & Finucane representing the Sinn Féin Head of Administration at Stormont, Dennis Donaldson, and the civil servant, William Mackessy said today:

“This morning not guilty verdicts were entered in respect of all the charges in relation to all of our clients. Since October 2002 our clients have had extremely serious charges hanging over them. Both of them vehemently denied the allegations against them. Their arrests had not only serious consequences for themselves and their families but also for the wider community in the sense that their arrests led to the fall of the Power-Sharing Executive at Stormont. Our clients are of the clear view that they were victims of a political operation by elements within the Security Forces who deliberately used their position to hamper political progress in this country.

Even when our clients were being questioned in custody it became clear, through the media that the lawyers were not being provided with the entire picture in relation to this matter. There was evidence that there were three and possibly four different Security Force Operations involved in this case.

In particular, we learned on 12th November 2002 that there was a now notorious Special Branch operation known as “Operation Torsion” which was designed to incriminate Republicans. Its details did not feature once in any of the thousands of pages of documents were eventually served on us by the DPP. According to informed sources, this operation involved house break-ins, widespread bugging and the use of at least one Police Agent Provocateur.

Madden & Finucane requested on 1st April 2004 all material arising out of or in connection with Operation Torsion. We also wanted to know who authorized this operation. When nothing was disclosed and the DPP gave notice that a Public Interest Immunity (PII) gagging order was to be asserted in relation to the case, we made submissions that without prejudice to the fact we should have access to this material, the court should give consideration to appointing a Special Independent Counsel to consider all of the sensitive material and advise the Court on matters of disclosure.

The Court agreed with this submission and, for the first time in this jurisdiction, a Special Independent Counsel was appointed early this year. After completing his task this summer, the court ordered that the Crown consider its position three weeks ago. Today the Crown formally offered no evidence at court and, over three years after our client’s ordeal began, not guilty verdicts have rightly been returned by the Court.”