Two days ago I emailed the Operation Kenova press office to ask if it was true that Freddie Scappaticci had been arrested under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), rather than an anti-terrorist law such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) or the Emergency Provisions Act (EPA).
I am still waiting for an answer to a simple question whose answer should or could be a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
The clue that PACE was being used came after 24 hours in custody when the Operation Kenova team let it be known that they were applying for a 36 hour extension of his detention. That is what the PACE legislation allows.
Today (Friday) Scappaticci was released on bail, although not charged, on the understanding that he would return to police custody at an agreed date. It is believed he was questioned, inter alia, about the IRA killing of UVF leader John Bingham in 1986.
Under anti-terrorism laws, usually the PTA, a person can be held for 48 hours and then their detention can be extended by five days. Clearly that legislation was not used to either arrest or hold Scappaticci.
The implications of this will be disturbing to some. Scappaticci is believed to have been involved, directly or indirectly, in a large number of IRA killings in his capacity as a member or leader of the IRA’s anti-informer cell, the Internal Security Unit.
Anyone else suspected of this level and type of offence would be processed via anti-terrorism laws. The fact that Scappaticci is not being subjected to such laws but instead is being treated like an ordinary bank robber or wife-killer will be seen widely as indicating leniency due to the fact that he committed murder while in the pay of the British government.
Perhaps there is another reason for such lenient treatment, some clever ploy to pry open Scappaticci’s Pandora Box; but if so, it is not immediately apparent. We shall see.
As things stand this is not a good start for Operation Kenova. To put it mildly.