Suspension on killings inquests lifted

Published Monday, 11 February 2013
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Up to 21 inquests into controversial killings in Northern Ireland are set to proceed after a suspension on the probes was lifted.

Suspension on killings inquests lifted
The relatives of those killed challenged the suspension of the inquests. (© PA)

The tribunals, ordered by Attorney General John Larkin QC, had been put on hold when senior coroner John Leckey questioned whether he had exceeded his powers.

But a legal challenge to that move brought by relatives of some of those killed was formally ended at the High Court in Belfast on Monday.

A lawyer for one of the families later confirmed the judicial review proceedings were halted because Mr Leckey has now lifted his suspension.

The hearings were adjourned at a preliminary stage last November amid uncertainty over the Attorney General's right to authorise them.

At the time the coroner, appointed chief legal adviser to the Northern Ireland Executive in 2010, cited potential national security issues.

The dispute centred on whether the cases should instead have been considered and directed the Advocate General for England and Scotland.

The coroner's decision provoked outrage among relatives of those whose deaths were to be scrutinised.

Lawyers for a number of the families launched legal challenges, claiming the move was unlawful and procedurally unfair.

The deaths which were due to be scrutinised include 11-year-old Francis Rowntree, who was hit by a rubber bullet fired by a soldier in west Belfast in 1972.

The inquest will now proceed and we ask the coroner to list it for a further preliminary hearing as soon as possible.

Solicitor for Teresa Slane, widow of UDA victim.

Another case involves Gerard Slane, a 27-year-old father of three shot dead by the Ulster Defence Assocation at his home in the city in 1988.

His killing sparked claims of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces.

Proceedings were also brought on behalf of relatives of Gerard Casey, murdered by the Ulster Freedom Fighters in Rasharkin, Co Antrim in 1989; Danny Doherty and William Fleming, shot dead by the SAS in Derry in 1984; and Francis Bradley, killed by the SAS near Castledawson, Co Derry in 1986.

A full hearing of the families' judicial review challenge was due to take place next week.

But in court today the case was brought to an end, with the judge told there was no long any requirement for the challenge.

Outside the court solicitor Paul Pierce of Kevin R Winters, representing Mr Slane's widow Teresa, said: "We welcome the decision by the coroner to lift the suspension in relation to these inquests.

"It's unfortunate that the coroner did not give Teresa Slane the opportunity to address these issues in advance of taking that decision.

"Had he done so there would have been no need to bring these judicial review proceedings challenging the decision, which has only resulted in further delay for the Slane family."

SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood welcomed the lifting of suspensions on inquests including the inquest into the Ballymurphy massacres.

"The decision by the coroner John Leckey to abandon his decision to suspend the inquest into the Ballymurphy Massacre is welcome but there are serious question marks as to why he took the action in the first place," he said.

"Many families were put through unnecessary stress. It is important that these inquests are now progressed as a matter of urgency."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Danny in Ulster wrote (712 days ago):
Eamo - I have no problem with loyalist killers of catholics being brought to justice, but your statement is flawed. The IRA killed more innocents than anyone, and ALL THE UNSOLVED MASS MUREDERS like Omagh, Enniskillen etc were carried out by republican cowards. Get your facts right!
Ex Forces in N. Ireland wrote (712 days ago):
willie maher in brisbane - your comment re the UDR is disgusting and utter lies. The vast majority of the UDR, both catholic and protestant soldiers were there to help prevent ALL terrorism. Yes, there were a few bad apples, not unusual in an organisation of that size, but they were brought to justice by the courts for their crimes. It took guts to put on a uniform and patrol the streets knowing you are a target. Not like the terrorist scum skulking in back alleys with masks on murdering innocent citizens. N. Ireland is a better place without you.
Doug in Belfastnyclak CITIZEN wrote (712 days ago):
Some people seem to be missing a major point. Republican killings were treated as criminal acts and investigated as such at the time of perpetration. Given the nature and make up of our police force at the time I think it's fair to say they were investigated fairly rigorously too. The difference between this and many Loyalist murders is that there is now evidence of collusion or complicity between the Killers and the security forces of the time. That means they obviously weren't investigated correctly at the time. That is why the HET deals with a lot more Nationalist/Republican victims than Loyalist/Unionist. Republican killings were investigated to the best of the RUC's ability. Loyalist murders weren't.
william in coleraine wrote (713 days ago):
eamo your one sided blinkered view is an insult to real victims of the troubles. your views are bigoted aswell as an insult to the victims of the ira, you only advocate for victims of loyalists and the security forces, 100s of catholics were also victims of the IRA also how about justice for them too! the british and irish governments should be paying overtime to investigate ALL victims. not sweeping republican crimes aside.
martin in belfast wrote (713 days ago):
These inquests needn't cost very much. The goverment could just admit that they were at fault, then charge the people responsible. Its the cover up that generates the cost not the families that are looking for justice! As for all these posters claiming all inquests are one sided, how many cases can you identify that the 'so called' other side were murdered by the goverment?
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