File on death of Paul Whitters closed until 2059
| 30 April 2018
PFC has become aware that a file directly relating to the death of Paul Whitters is held with the National Archives, but is closed until 2059 on the grounds outlined below. There are other files relevant to those that were killed by plastic bullets closed for 84 years, until 2071. This includes the deaths of Paul Whitters and Stephen McConomy.
File name CJ4/4402 Paul Whitters: killed by a plastic baton round, April 1981 (1981-83); closed for 75 years. Health & Safety, Personal Information when the applicant is a 3rd Party. Opening Date: 1st January 2059.
This week, on the anniversary of Paul's death, the PFC will be writing to the Secretary of State and the National Archives seeking access to this information on behalf of the Whitters' family.
Paul was shot in the head by a plastic bullet fired by an RUC officer on 15th April 1981. He survived ten days before dying from his injuries on 25th April. He was just fifteen years old. A year later, almost to the day, a British soldier shot 11 year old Stephen McConomy from within an armoured vehicle. Again he was shot with a plastic bullet. Stephen survived 3 days before dying on 19th April.
Paul's mother Helen said,
"To discover that the British Government have a file on Paul which they have ordered closed until 2059 is shocking. What right does the Government have to withhold information until those who knew and loved Paul are long dead. This is about the death of my son at the hands of a RUC constable. This file must be opened and I am appealing to everyone with influence to raise this matter with the Secretary of State.
Sara Duddy from PFC
"These files contain information relating to the deaths of children on our streets, children killed through the actions of the RUC/British army. For years families have campaigned for information relating to the use of plastic and rubber bullets, lethal weapons that killed 17 people during the conflict, mostly children. Many more suffered life-changing injuries. It is unacceptable that information is still being withheld and our understanding is that it is the NIO who requested that these files remain closed. The Secretary of State should urgently review the decision to withhold files on individual deaths and injuries."