MOD 'hid dangers of rubber bullets'

MOD 'hid dangers of rubber bullets'

The Ministry of Defence withheld scientific data showing that the Ministry was aware that rubber bullets were more dangerous than had been admitted publicly, a human rights group has claimed.

The Pat Finucane Centre has released classified documents relating to the case of Richard Moore, who was blinded by a rubber bullet that hit him at close range when he was ten years old in 1972 in Londonderry.

Mr Moore went on to head Children in Crossfire which promotes childhood care and development in some of the poorest countries in the world, as well as promoting peace with the Dalai Lama, a patron of the charity.

He also eventually met the soldier who shot at him and the two became friends.

The documents detail the legal considerations when Mr Moore filed a civil case against the Ministry of Defence.

In one of the documents, it addresses evidence surrounding rubber bullets.

It reads: "This question of whether the rubber bullet was a suitable and safe weapon for riot control purposes. If this line of questioning was pursued, it would have a potential for embarrassment.

"Because the Army needed a riot control weapon urgently the tests at CDE Porton were carried out in a shorter time than would have been ideal."

At one level, the victims of these bullets and their families have felt and suspected something of this order all along. At another level, it is grossly shocking to find that cynical malevolence corroborated in government papers.

SDLP MP Mark Durkan

It was deemed that the MoD would be better to settle with Mr Moore, for fear that the evidence on rubber bullet testing would arise in court.

"A court case, even with an adverse finding, would also not necessarily set any precedent, although if the suitability of the rubber bullets was explored in court, with adverse comments, as we anticipate, this could well inhibit is from fighting future cases," another document stated.

The legal advice surmised that there were two potential weaknesses in the case - that rubber bullets were fired at such close range and that the plaintiff may have argued the MOD had not taken sufficient care in establishing risk of serious injury, particularly to the eyes.

Responding, the Ministry of Defence in London said: "The MOD greatly regrets that Mr Moore was blinded at such a young age as a result of this incident and our thoughts remain with all those who were killed or injured during that time - both military and civilian.

Lessons have been learned following the tragic events of during that period of conflict and compensation payments have been made in recognition of that.

MoD statement

But the Pat Finucane Centre has disputed that compensation had been paid out in all cases, stating their documents show that the MoD "...successfully fought a number of Rubber Bullet cases in the Northern Ireland courts, and in none of them has the plaintiff's counsel turned his attention to the question of Rubber Bullet tests."

"To have 'successfully fought cases' means that compensation was contested and not paid and that the relevant and damning scientific data was withheld," a spokesperson said.

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said the confidential papers confirmed a calculated combination of "cynicism, malice and negligence" on the part of the British government.

"Their stonewalling against the well-founded complaints and arguments about the nature and use of these bullets extended to deploying monetary compensation not in a spirit of redress and truth and acknowledgement but as a tool of cover-up," he said.

"Through his work with Children in Crossfire Richard has many friends in Parliament and I would hope that they would join with me as his constituency MP in making sure that this sordid syndrome of deceit, denial and deadly deployment is duly reflected on the Parliamentary record."


Elsewhere on the Web

More Top Stories

UTV Digest

Your daily digest of the most popular UTV Stories

Back to Top