Appendix 1: Document :1 The Samuel Devenny Enquiry
Statement of the Chief Constable, Sir Arthur Young | 04 November 1970
The serious civil disturbances which took place in Londonderry on 19/20the April, 1969, subjected the Royal Ulster Constabulary to persistent and extreme acts of violence from which they suffered numerous and serious personal injuries. The police were previously provoked during prolonged and exacting circumstances, often without adequate rest, refreshment or relief. There were many examples of exemplary devotion to duty and personal gallantry. During these two day's rioting the Constabulary suffered 214 casualties; 3 District Inspectors, 9 Head Constables, 34 Sergeants and 168 Constables. Under this continuous stress the command and administration of operations became disorganised in the attempt by the police to undertake tasks for which their resources were inadequate and their organisation, in my opinion, unsuited. In retrospect, one sees too often a picture of isolated police doing their best as individuals and using commendable personal initiative in situations which, if short of the chaotic, were clearly beyond the control of the overall commander.
The forcible entry and the attack by the police upon the Devenny home was brought about by the fact that a number of young men, who had taken part in the riots and who were fleeing from immediate police pursuit, were seen by the police to enter the house. Unfortunately, no one was apprehended since the offenders climbed the yard wall at the rear and escaped by way of adjoining houses.
The occupants of the Devenny house put up a strong resistance to the entry of the police in pursuit of these rioters. This, however, does not excuse the wilful assaults which the police undoubtedly made upon Samuel Devenny, his son Harry, and his daughters Ann and Catherine, Frederick Budd and Patrick Harkin, who were also present in the house.
No more tan eight members of the Force entered the Devenny home, and it is clear that not all of them took part in the assaults on the unfortunate persons. This should be viewed in relation to the fact that 500 police were engaged in Londonderry that day under provocative and harassing conditions to which I have already referred.
The police concerned have not admitted either their guild or involvement nor has there been any evidence forthcoming either from member of the Force or from the public which would serve to establish their identity. I am satisfied that amongst those officers, who possess this guilty knowledge, there is a conspiracy of silence motivated by a misconceived and improper sense of loyalty to their guilty comrades.
Public reference has been made to unidentified officers, one of whom was said to be carrying a blackthorn stick, and to another, believed to be local, being involved in the assaults. There is clear evidence that, notwithstanding the fact that such individuals were in the house, neither took part in the attacks made upon the inmates. Evidence of this is supplied by members of the Devenny family themselves. There is testimony that the officer with the blackthorn stick prevented an assault being made upon Harry Devenny by one of the Constables. Both of these officers remain unidentified.
A most searching investigation by Detective Chief Superintendent Drury, assisted by Detective Sergeant Coleman, has failed to produce that evidence of identification of any of the individual officers concerned which, in the absence of the effect of the general amnesty granted in May, 1969, would make the institution of criminal proceedings possible. (The general amnesty granted by the Government of Northern Ireland on 6th May, 1969, precluded he initiation of criminal proceedings against any person for any offence other than sabotage arising out of civil disturbances between that date and 5th October 1968). If in the future, there should be prima facie evidence of the guild of any of the officers it would then be a matter for consideration as to what disciplinary proceedings ought to be taken.
If criminal prosecutions had been possible the charges before the court could have been a matter for the law officers of the Crown to decide and not my responsibility. Nevertheless, in view of the widespread public comment which has been made I consider that I should express my opinion the, having studied the extensive and complex medical evidence placed before me, the appropriate charges would have been for offences of causing grievous bodily harm.
At the Inquest, held on 15th December, 1969, the death of Samuel Devenny on 17th July, 1969, was certified as due to Coronary Artheroma and Cold Thrombosis, and a verdict of death from natural causes was returned.
From time to time there has been public reference and innuendo indicating the identity of the police suspected of being responsible. All these accusations have been thoroughly checked with the result that the various individual officers referred to have been exculpated beyond a shadow of doubt. Likewise, rumours and hearsay have been checked back to their insubstantial origins.
In the whole of my police experience I have never encountered a more studious or comprehensive enquiry than that achieved by Mr. Drury. In a report of no less than236 pages, supported by statements of evidence of more than a thousand folios and by a massive collection of plans, photos and official records, he has left no possibility of proof unexplored. He has interviewed hundreds of witnesses, including all those who wished to give him information and no less than 123 individual police officers who could have been in possession of material facts. Those who have since left the Force and who have emigrated, together with some private persons, now domiciled abroad, have been interviewed either by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation or by an agency of Interpol in Canada. Mr. Drury has studied contemporary press reports and examined all television film coverage and has investigated recorded sound tapes. All witnesses, including the occupants of the Devenny home, who might possibly have identified the offenders had been given the opportunity to examine photographs but no positive identification has been received.
I am grateful to Mr. Drury for his diligent and sustained efforts from April to October and for his achievement in producing such an exhaustive reconstruction and analysis. I also express my gratitude to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for making the services of so senior an officer available to be over such an extended period.
I trust that this serious misconduct on the part of a small number of members of the Force will be considered in relation to all that the Force as a whole has subsequently achieved to become a non-aggressive, non-retaliatory police serve resolved to win the respect and confidence of all members of the community.
I hope, too, that the fact that in future all Sergeants and Constables of the Force in uniform will wear identity numerals will increase the confidence of the public in the proper accountability of each individual member of the Force.