Appendix 1: Document :2 The Samuel Devenny Enquiry
Press release | 05 November 1970
STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS TODAY ON THE ENQUIRY BY DETECTIVE CHIEF SUPERTENDENT DRURY AND THE SUBSEQUENT STATE OF THE CHIEF CONSTABLE OF THE DEVENNY CASE
First, may I extend the sympathy of the Government and myself to the members of the Devenny family for what they have suffered.
I have now had an opportunity to consider the Report of Detective Chief Superintendent Drury who enquired into the circumstances in which it was alleged Mr Samuel Devenny of Londonderry was assaulted by police officers of the RUC on 19 April 1969 and the subsequent statement issued by the Chief Constable.
In my view the Statement of the Chief Constable is fully supported by the Conclusions which the Chief Superintendent drew from the evidence furnished to him.
That these are adverse to the RUC, a force in which we take great pride, is a matter of regret to me, but I would remind the House that, out of a force of some 500 men on duty in Londonderry on that day, not more than 8 were involved in this deplorable incident. We must keep the matter in perspective.
Failure to identify these men, a failure which attended an earlier Enquiry held by District Inspector Faulkner, as he then was, is certainly not due to any lack of effort on the part of the Chief Superintendent and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Churchill Coleman. In fact, the thoroughness of the investigation and the immense time and trouble spent upon it should dispose of the canard that genuine attempts are never made to discover the culprits were police are involved. It has not proved possible, despite the most intensive search, to identify the members of the Force responsible but the Enquiry did, on the other hand, find evidence to exonerate a number of police who had been wrongfully named as being involved in the incident. This, of itself, is a valuable outcome, removing, as it does, suspicion from innocent men.
The Chief Constable, at the outset of his statement, referred to the conditions prevailing in Londonderry on that day, and to the attacks and provocation to which the police were exposed continuously.
As a consequence of the untenable position in which police were placed, the Head Constable and Sergeants were unable to exercise proper control over the men and had they been able to do so the Devenny incident might well have been avoided. This is not an excuse for what happened, but it does illustrate that the state of the City on that day was such that the proper discharge of police duties, including the most important one of supervision, became impossible.
A disquieting feature of the Report is that some members of the RUC are aware of who the culprits are but, perhaps through a "misguided sense of loyalty", as the Chief Constable puts it, are unwilling to co-operate with the authorities in their endeavours to ascertain the truth. Whilst his may be understandable, surely their greater loyalty should lie with the vast majority of the members of the Force who must deprecate the actions of those concerned as strongly as do those outside the Force. Furthermore, it is within the power of these members, who have knowledge of what took place, to remove any shred of suspicion which may still exist in relation to those of their comrades who are entirely innocent. I leave it at that.
Hon Member will have seen from the Report of the Chief Constable how diligent and comprehensive was the Enquiry made by Chief Superintendent Drury, and I can only say that we must all regret that his mammoth task was in vain in the sense that, despite all efforts, he was unable to discover the identity of the culprits. Should, however, evidence emerge in the future of the guilt of any officers of the RUC then I am satisfied that the Chief Constable will take the appropriate action.
There is something else I want to say about this case before I sit down, and I as hon. Members opposite to consider it very earnestly.
What took place in the Devenny home cannot be condoned. It would be to the enormous advantage of the RUC as a whole if the men involved could be positively identified, thereby removing from the vast majority of policemen who have showed superb restraint in trying times the stigma which as been place upon them by a small minority.
But we will not approach this painful subject in a responsible way if we fail to acknowledge that, in the tension and violence of the past two years, many standards have suffered. Our police force were at time exposed to a situation verging on warfare. Such a situation demanded of the men qualities far beyond those which are normally expected not just of the ordinary man but of the ordinary policeman.
There are lessons for us all in these unhappy events - lessons which we for our part are determined to learn. Never again, if we can help it, will our police forces by thrust into situations with which they could not cope. Never again, if we can avoid it, will men be subject to such strain and hardship. And above all, can we not in this House, all of us, determine that never again will we - any of us - contribute in any way to a situation in which ordinary people do evil things, and do them on both sides and for a variety of causes, real or imaginary.
And I want also to say this. Let us accept the judgment [sic]on the Devenny case for what it is. Let us not seek to qualify it or pretend that it has not happened. But equally, let us not make this Report and those events an occasion for undermining in any way the overall relationship now developing between the police force and the community. With virtually every aspect of the Hunt Report carried through, with an impartial Police Authority in being, with every effort being made to attract into the RUC good recruits from every section of the community, this is a time to note the unhappy experience of the past but not to exploit it. For this community no less than any other, needs the protection of law and the assistance of a body of men to ensure that protection. The RUC today embodies in its ranks some of the finest men and women in our community. While we properly ensure those few who fell short in trying conditions, let us not fail to express our proper gratitude to all the rest.