Victims and their families take action
BY LAURA FRIEL
A plastic bullet victim has taken legal action against the Policing Board, the PSNI Chief Constable and the British MoD. This is the first time the Board has faced legal action.
Peter Montgomery, from the Short Strand area of east Belfast, arrived at the city's High Court with his arm still in plaster after being injured by a plastic bullet almost two months ago.
He is suing the Police Board for negligence in relation to the provision of the L21 A1 plastic bullet, citing the board's failure to identify the 'inherent dangers' in the use of the weapon.
The board will also have to answer a charge of being 'negligent' in authorising the deployment of plastic bullets and in failing to control or regulate their discharge.
The new plastic bullet was introduced in June 2001 and despite British government spin that attempted to portray the L21 A1 as 'safer', the new projectile is regarded by most experts as significantly more dangerous and even more deadly then its discredited forerunner.
Speaking outside the court, Peter Montgomery pointed out that both unionist and nationalist politicians were calling for the use of plastic bullets to be outlawed. His solicitor, Kevin Winters said that Chief Constable's office and British M0D had been willing to pay out in excess of £2.5 million rather than face a legal challenge by the victims.
"This has meant that the courts have been prevented from ruling on the legitimacy of plastic bullets and consequently injuries have continued without censure," said the solicitor.
Meanwhile, Chief Judge Robert Carswell, High Court Judge Malachy Higgins and the Belfast coroner John Leckey are to face legal action following their failure to uphold a directive by the European Court of Human Rights.
The civil action is being taken by the family of Pearse Jordon, an IRA Volunteer shot dead by undercover RUC officers in 1992. The 21-year-old was unarmed.
Last year, the European Court ordered the British government to pay compensation to the families of ten IRA Volunteers killed by British Crown forces in controversial circumstances. The court also criticised the British government for failing to adequately investigate the circumstances surrounding the killings, focusing on the restricted inquest procedures imposed in the North of Ireland.
The court ruled that the dead men's human rights had been violated as a result of these procedures. Yet despite the ruling, the inquest into the death of Pearse Jordon continues to be dogged by delays.
Hugh Jordon, father of the victim, is suing the two judges and the coroner, seeking damages for "frustration, distress and anxiety" caused by the failure to conduct a prompt hearing of the inquest into his son's death.
Meanwhile, Martin Mallon, the nephew of assassinated County Tyrone pensioner Roseanne Mallon, has met with British security minister Jane Kennedy to put a series of questions arising from the killing.
Roseanne Mallon (76) was shot dead by a loyalist death squad at the isolated home of her sister near Dungannon. It later emerged that at the time of the killing six undercover British soldiers were at the scene but were ordered not to intervene.
Detectives investigating were not informed of the undercover presence and were denied important video evidence filmed by the Crown forces unit after a local farmer inadvertently uncovered spy cameras and other surveillance equipment in the area and the undercover unit was exposed.
Martin Mallon, accompanied by Relatives for Justice spokesperson Mark Thompson, described the meeting as unsatisfactory.
"There were no answers to our questions," said Mallon. " If you are looking for truth and justice, you're certainly not going to get it in the present system."
The meeting did very little to alleviate the family's concerns, he said. "The British minister remained convinced that Special Branch were still the right people to investigate the murder, despite their role in thwarting the earlier investigation."