|The father of Baha Mousa outside the inquiry into his son's death.|
Mousa's family are urging the DPP to consider whether Peter Madden\
should be prosecuted. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
The director of public prosecutions has been asked to consider bringing criminal charges against a Roman Catholic priest who was found to have witnessed the shocking condition of a group of prisoners in Iraq, which included Baha Mousa, who was tortured to death, but did nothing to raise the alarm.
Lawyers for Mousa's family and the other prisoners are urging the DPP to consider whether Father Peter Madden should be prosecuted for misconduct in public office or even for breaching the Geneva Conventions.
Madden was serving as padre with the rank of captain with the 1st Battalion, the Queen's Lancashire Regiment in Basra in September 2003. He has since left the army and is a parish priest in Warwick.
He faced scathing criticism from an official inquiry after he repeatedly maintained that he was unable to recall whether he had entered the detention facility where Mousa and nine other men were being tortured.
Several soldiers told the inquiry that Madden had visited the detention centre on a number of occasions.
Private Gareth Aspinall said he decided not to make any complaint about the abuse because the padre had made no objections. "When people like that have come in, of high authority, you start to think, well, if I was going to report it, who – is anyone bothered?"
Public Interest Lawyers said it had submitted the complaint to the DPP after the church failed to take any action.
Phil Shiner, a lawyer at the Birmingham-based firm, said: "This Catholic priest crossed the road when he saw what was happening to Baha and the other men. If he had intervened Baha would still be alive – it is as simple as that.
"He must now face criminal investigation as the archbishop of Birmingham has swatted away my formal complaint telling me that it is a private matter between him and Madden. That is an outrageous response which is a blatant attempt to sweep this matter under the carpet".
The archdiocese of Birmingham said in a statement that the archbishop, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley, had interviewed Madden and discussed the matter with the senior Roman Catholic chaplain in the British military, and had "found no grounds for taking further action in relation to Madden's current responsibilities as a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Birmingham".
Madden told the Observer that the inquiry had been mistaken and his "conscience is clear".
The inquiry heard from several soldiers who said they saw Madden in the detention facility where Mousa and the other men were tortured over a 36-hour period. After Mousa died he was found to have suffered 93 separate injuries.
The inquiry also heard that a number of soldiers approached him after Mousa's death to discuss their concerns.
When Madden gave evidence under oath, he was asked 12 times whether he had visited the detention facility, replying each time that he "wouldn't be able to say" or that he had "no clear recollection".
The inquiry chairman, Sir William Gage, described Madden as "a poor witness" whose evidence had been inconsistent. He concluded that the priest had visited the temporary detention facility, or TDF, on the second day of the prisoners' ordeal, in the hours before Mousa died,.
"If find it inconceivable that when Madden went into the TDF he could not have observed what others had seen and described, namely the appallingly squalid conditions in the TDF and the obvious distress of the Detainees. Having reached this conclusion, it is inevitable that Madden, in my opinion, ought either to have intervened there and then or, more realistically, straight away reported it up the chain of command.
"It is a matter of regret that he did not find the courage to do either."
A statement issued on Madden's behalf described Gage's findings as "erroneous" and said the priest had given honest answers to the questions that had been put to him. He was "absolutely certain that he did not see the abuse described in the report" and would have intervened and reported the matter if he had.
Just one man, Donald Payne, a former corporal, has been held to account for the death of Mousa, being jailed for a year and dismissed from the army after he pleaded guilty to a charge of inhuman treatment. Six others were cleared after a court martial.
A number of soldiers were suspended following the publication of Sir William's report last September.
General Sir Peter Wall, head of the army, said the force's provost martial will investigate whether anyone else should be disciplined in the light of fresh evidence unearthed by the inquiry.
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