Family of man tortured into confessing that he killed soldier awarded £350,000

The family of a man who was tortured into a confession that he killed a soldier has been awarded £350,000 by the High Court in Belfast.

Liam Holden was the last man to be sentenced to death by hanging in the UK after he was convicted in 1972 for the murder of soldier Private Frank Bell.

But he had been tortured, including through waterboarding techniques, in military custody which a High Court judge found had led to his confession.

His sentence was reduced to life in prison, but the conviction was quashed in 2012. He then received £1 million in damages for the miscarriage of justice.

Mr Holden died last year at the age of 68 after launching civil proceedings for damages against the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI.

He previously gave evidence in the case.

Mr Justice Rooney said he had been an honest and truthful witness who had described traumatic experiences.

“It is my decision that the plaintiff was subjected to waterboarding. He was hooded, He was driven in a car flanked by soldiers to a location where he thought he would be assassinated. A gun was put to his head and he was threatened that he would be shot dead,” he said.

He went on to award damages for personal injuries, loss and damage while Mr Holden had been unlawfully detained at the Black Mountain Army Base.

He awarded the estate of Mr Holden £50,000 for waterboarding, hooding and threat to kill, £10,000 for malicious prosecution, £10,000 for misfeasance in public office, £30,000 in aggravated damages and £250,000 for special loss.

In a joint statement, Mr Holden’s son Samuel Bowden and daughter Bronagh Holden said their father was an innocent man.

“The court has found that our father was waterboarded by the British Army in Belfast in 1972,” they said.

“The court also found that he was maliciously prosecuted by the army.

“The court has today exposed the grotesque act of torture committed by the members of the Paratrooper regiment in Belfast in 1972.

“My father was an innocent man who went to jail for a crime he did not commit for 17 years.

“We wish he was here today with us. He died on September 15 2022. We miss him but salute him – his life and campaign for justice were a triumph of humanity over state injustice.”

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly paid tribute to the Holden family.

“I want to commend Liam’s family for their determination and dignity and their continued campaign for truth and justice,” he said.

“Today’s verdict in the courts is further vindication of that campaign.”