Report on Pat Finucane murder to be released on 12 December

Pat Finucane was shot dead in 1989

Pat Finucane was shot dead in 1989

The British government is to publish a review into the killing of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane on 12 December.

The murdered solicitor’s family have campaigned for a full public inquiry to be held, a demand refused by the British authorities.

The murder of Mr Finucane in front of his wife and family in 1989 was one of the most controversial killings of the Troubles.

It was carried out by loyalist paramilitaries with numerous allegations in the aftermath that British security forces colluded with the killers.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has accepted collusion took place and apologised to the Finucane family but refused to establish a public inquiry – opting instead for a review of the evidence.

This was carried out by the London-based lawyer Desmond de Silva and is to be published next month.

WITH MANY THANKS TO : RTÉ News

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Hung jury in Jordan case raises new questions about juries in Troubles killing inquests

Does the inquest system here have a role

Does the inquest system here have a role “front and centre” in how Northern Ireland deals with the past.

A 20 year legal battle into the shooting of an unarmed PIRA man looks set to continue after an inquest jury failed to reach a verdict on the key issues surrounding his death.

It is the second inquest into a state killing from the Troubles which has seen a jury called to make the findings – and both have ended in controversy, with questions raised about possible bias.

And while the jurors’ deliberations in both cases are unknown – as is a strictly-guarded convention – debate has now opened up behind the scenes as to whether juries in Northern Ireland can be impartial in such contentious cases.

Pearse Jordan was shot dead by an elite RUC unit as he was driving a stolen car along the Falls Road in Belfast on 25 November 1992.

The 22 year-old was unarmed and running away from the car when he was shot three times by the policeman in charge of the unit, identified in court as sergeant `A`.

`A` claimed that Jordan had been turning towards him when he opened fire but forensic evidence showed he had been shot in the back.

The Jordan family had fought a protracted legal battle to have an inquest into what they believe was an RUC `shoot to kill` policy.

In 2001 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the British government to pay compensation to the Jordan family after it ruled that inquest procedures into the killing were flawed.

In 2002 a legal challenge taken by the dead man’s family resulted in a change in the law to compel soldiers and police officers responsible for lethal force shootings to attend inquest hearings – previously they did not have to attend.

The Jordan inquest, which opened last month on September 24, was only the second so-called `shoot to kill’ inquest to be heard since the change in the law.

Despite the potential major legal ramifications for future inquests into controversial security force killings, the Jordan case has gone largely unreported.

No other media outlets were present in court on Friday when the jury returned after deliberating for five and a half hours.

In a dramatic turn of events the jury told coroner Brian Sherrard that they could only agree on some basic answers surrounding the incident, but remained at a `stalemate` over the key questions surrounding the shooting itself.

“At this point in time there is a mindset (and) we’re not going to get by it,” the forewoman of the jury told the coroner.

The Jordan family’s barrister, Barry Macdonald SC (instructed by Madden&Finucane solicitors), said that any attempt to accept a partial decision by the coroner would be “quite wrong” and would “masquerade as a verdict“.

However the coroner rejected Mr Macdonald’s application that the jury should be dismissed and another inquest begun.

Instead Mr Sherrard said he would accept the limited findings of the jury, despite the jurors being unable to agree on the key issues as to how Mr Jordan was killed.

It is understood the decision will now be the subject of a judicial review.

CAN A JURY IN A TROUBLES KILLING BE IMPARTIAL?

In June 2011 Attorney General John Larkin told the Detail that changes in the legal system meant that inquests in Northern Ireland would have a much more important role to play in the investigation of Troubles related killings.

In the intervening period the Attorney General has instructed the coroner service to re-open cases into a series of Troubles-related killings.

Unlike their counterparts in England and Wales inquest juries in Northern Ireland must reach a unanimous verdict – they are not allowed to deliver a majority verdict if they cannot agree.

The Justice and Security Act (NI) 2007 also guarantees anonymity to jurors, making it illegal for barristers to question a potential juror about any possible religious or sectarian bias they may hold.

The Detail can reveal that the issue of potential bias has arisen in the only two `shoot-to-kill’ inquests to have taken place since security force members were compelled to give evidence in court.

In the first instance in March a juror taking part in the inquest into the SAS shooting of PIRAmen Dessie Grew and Martin McCaughey was alleged to have been asleep or not paying attention to evidence on five different occasions during the inquest.

It was further alleged in documents seen by The Detail that the same juror had shown hostility towards legal counsel and the PIRA men’s relatives and had spat at two family members outside the court.

The alleged incidents made up part of an appeal against the inquest verdict, with Mr McCaughey’s legal team arguing:

“The coroner’s repeated failure to discharge a juror who paid inadequate attention to the evidence and exhibited hostility towards the next of kin amounted to a failure to ensure that the inquest was determined by an impartial and fair tribunal of fact and undermined the integrity of the jury’s verdict.”

It can also be revealed for the first time that a complaint was made during the Jordan inquest after a member of the jury sent a note to the coroner criticising Mr MacDonald’s questioning of a police witness.

The note, read: “Is an opinion necessary? I feel this inquest is very unfair. Do we really need to hear all this?”

The Jordan family’s barrister asked the coroner to remove the juror concerned from the inquest claiming the note showed the juror was “clearly vexed” and was incapable of assessing the evidence in the case dispassionately.

Mr Macdonald said it was clear the juror’s mind was already made up and he expressed concern that the juror have unduly influenced other members of the jury.

While Mr Sherrard refused to dismiss the juror involved, he did issue a warning to the jury that they should only make up their minds after having heard all the evidence in the case.

He said that any juror who did not feel they were able to act impartially should make themselves known to him so that they could be removed. No juror did so and the panel remained unchanged for the entirety of the inquest.

Closing the inquest coroner Brian Sherrard said that many years had been spent examining the events surrounding the shooting of Pearse Jordan.

He said the limited nature of 1959 legislation governing how inquests are held in Northern Ireland meant that coroners’ courts had very limited powers and were denied any real opportunity to explore the true context of the Troubles adding that inquest juries were being asked to step back and look at a time in our past which the rest of Northern Ireland had moved on from.

The Detail understands that legal teams representing families of a number of people killed by members of the security forces in controversial circumstances have now raised concerns over the potential independence of jury inquests in Troubles related killings.

We can reveal that those concerns led to Jordan family’s legal team applying for the inquest into the PIRA man’s death to be heard without a jury.

In an application to the court for a non jury inquest, solicitor Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane stated:

“An inquest such as the present one, in which the deceased was shot by a member of the security forces in the course of an anti-terrorist operation, is the type of case in which there is a danger that “a juror’s political beliefs are so biased as to go beyond normally reflecting the broad spectrum of views and interests in the community to reflect the extreme views of sectarian interest or pressure group to a degree which might interfere with his fair assessment of the facts of the case or lead him to exert improper pressure on his fellow jurors.”

“The upshot is that, whereas in criminal cases with a potentially sectarian element there are various safeguards against perverse verdicts (judge-only trials or, where a jury sits, majority verdicts), there are none in inquests where the same problem could arise. In such inquests a jury must be summoned and it must return a unanimous verdict. This is a recipe for either a perverse verdict (depending on the catchment area for the jury panel) or no agreed verdict, irrespective of the evidence.”

courtroom
courtroom / Detail archive

ACADEMIC ASKS IF INQUESTS ARE BEST FORUM FOR TROUBLES KILLINGS

The Detail has spoken to Professor Sally Wheeler, Chair of the School of Law at Queen’s University, about the subject and she has suggested that it goes to the heart of how Northern Ireland deals with its past.

She says that the current practice of using jury inquests to deal with Troubles-related killings had lead to the potential for major difficulties.

“We are in danger of using the inquest system to deal with issues which it was never set up to deal with,” she said.

“One way round it would be to have jury screening, for inquest juries, in the way that we do for Crown Court trials and certainly this is the way that the Americans have dealt with issues surrounding race.

“The other way is to simply accept inquests for what they are, which is a much more limited form of inquiry and to set up another mechanism for dealing with legacy issues.

“I just don’t think you can fuse legacy issues and what families want to find out about the past with the type of inquiries that inquests produce.

“You cannot somehow squeeze those legacy issues through an inquest process. It is literally like trying to put a very bulky object down a very narrow tube and it just isn’t going to work.”

Highlighting the potential problems of independence for jurors in relation to Troubles related cases, she said:

“We have to accept that we still have Diplock courts for scheduled (paramilitary related) offences and we have never got rid of those. These have been reduced down to very few trials per year but they are still there. Why do we think these issues have gone away in relation to having inquests?

“I just think it’s perhaps a mistake, gifted with hindsight, to think that we can deal with these issues through an inquest.

“It’s almost more unsatisfactory than leaving the inquest simply adjourned.”

Awards success for The Detail journalists
WITH MANY THANKS TO : BARRY McCAFFREY, The Detail

MURDERED IN THE LINE OF DUTY BY BRITISH PARATROOPERS IN BALLYMURPHY WHILST TENDING A WOUNDED CIVILIAN !

Fr Hugh Mullen Catholic Martyr

Shot in cold blood by British Paratroopers as he tended one of their other victims. There are agonising details that i wont go into here but this man should be made a Saint for the long drawn out pain he endured.
God bless the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre
 POSTED ON BEHALF OF :  Tiocfaidh Ar La

EX-UUP LEADER IN ROW OVER TROUBLES VICTIMS REMARKS !

Tom Elliott post-speech

TOM ELLIOTT was embroiled in controversy last night after he was reported as saying the only ‘ real victims ‘ of the Troubles were those murdered by the IRA. The comments, which were reported in a weekly newspaper, provoked an angry response from SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone who called them ” crass and insensitive ” and asked that they be withdrawn immediately.

However, in a statement to the Irish News last night Mr Elliott said he accepted that victims were caused by various terrorist groups and ” on occasions the security forces “. The former Ulster Unionist Party leader was reported to have made the remark during a meeting of victims of IRA violence at a Co Tyrone hotel last Friday. During the meeting at the Royal Hotel, Cookstown, he read from a list of 44 deaths set to be reinvestigated by the Coroners Service, including those of Sean Brown and Francis Bradley from South Derry.

Mr McGlone said the comments were ” crassly insensitive ” and called on Mr Elliott to ” withdraw them immediately “. Sean Brown (61) was abducted by an LVF gang while locking up the Wolfe Tone GAA club near his Bellaghy home on May 12 1997. The father-of-six was shot and found beside his burning car near Randalstown, Co Antrim. Francis Bradley was 20 when he was killed by the SAS at an IRA arms dump near Toomebridge in 1986. The Castledawson native was shot eight times by special forces. Those who fired the fatal shots did not give evidence at a 1987 inquest. ” My father knew Sean Brown very well. He was highly respected in GAA circles and was murdered by the LVF,” Mr McGlone said. ” I personally knew Francis Bradley very well and the extended family I still know very well. ” The very fact that [ Tom Elliott ] is making a distinction and saying that the only victims are those killed by the IRA, is disgraceful in itself. ” These are families who are still grieving and who have questions to be answered so it is completely crass and insensitive.

” Tom Elliott’s remarks are so abhorrent as to be breathtaking and he has disgraced his office as a public representative, but more grievously than that, he has dishonoured the memory of over 3,000 men, women and children on all sides of our society whose lives were lost in the Troubles. ” He must withdraw his comments immediately and apologise to the families of all those he publicly dismissed as, in effect, worthless. ” If he does not, I for one will be seeking a public censure from the assembly.” However, Mr Elliott responded last night saying : ” At no stage did I suggest or infer, that anyone killed in the Troubles who was not murdered by the IRA were ‘ not real victims ‘.” ” That would be a nonsense because victims in this society were created by a variety of groups and organisations including the IRA, INLA, UDA, UVF various other terrorist splinter groups and on occasions the security forces.”

WITH MANY THANKS TO : SIMON CUNNINGHAM, IRISH NEWS.

THE HOODED MEN

      • In August 1971 the British army dragged scores of men from their homes and took them to interrogation centres throughout the 6 Co’s. Many were badly beaten but the worst was the torture endured by a group who were later to be known as The Hooded Men. Some of these men will speak about those terrible days in an event hosted by Lenadoon Cultural Group in Sarsfields CLG, Belfast.
      POSTED ON BEHALF OF : Friend’s Event · By Pádraic Mac Coitir

TWO FORGOTTEN INNOCENT MEN – DO KNOW WHO THEY ARE ??

I wonder who these men are

Today there are forgotten People who are victims of injustice ,injuries ,trauma and all sorts of problems as a result of British abuses and the reactions to them.This photo is what happened 90 years ,The repercussions and Oppressive brutality still remains in different forms today.False imprisonment ,like Gerry McGeough,Marian Price ,Martin Corey etc .The effects on them , their families ,etc are a responsibility to us today not to allow them to be forgotten.There many more suffering from all sorts of psychological problems from the Troubles and sacrificed so much

POSTED ON BEHALF OF :  Seosamh O Glacain

REMEMBER LOUGHINISLAND – THE IRELAND TEAM WILL – REMEMBER THE SIX !

Photo: Big day all round for Duffer today as Robbie hands him the captain's armband for the game against Italy, as he picks up his 100th cap! COYBIG!

POSTED ON BEHALF OF :  Tiocfaidh Ar La