The findings of a bogus inquest into the RUC police shooting of an IRA Volunteer more than 20 years ago are to be quashed, the High Court in Belfast has ruled, and a new inquest is to be held.
Pearse Jordan was 22 years of age and driving through west Belfast when his car was rammed by an unmarked police car. After abandoning his vehicle on the Falls Road, he was shot in the back three times by uniformed RUC police.
Mr Jordan’s death was one of scores of murders which was the result of a policy of ‘shoot-to-kill’ (selective assassination) by the British Crown forces.
In October 2012, a long-delayed inquest failed to reach agreement on key aspects of the case. The jury was split on whether ‘reasonable force’ was used, and the ‘state of belief’ on the part of those in the Crown Forces who fired the fatal shots.
In a verdict with potentially major implications for other cases, a judge in the north of Ireland has today [Friday] found the RUC (now the PSNI) responsible for a delay of up to 11 years in holding the hearing, and said they could be liable for damages over the delay.
In Friday’s 129-page judgment, the judge attributed the decades of delay to the police, pointing to a bogus process around threat assessments and applications for witness anonymity.
“I consider that this was an obstacle or difficulty created by the PSNI which prevented progress of the inquest,” he said. He ordered that the original inquest verdict should be quashed on a number of grounds, including:
* The non-disclosure to the Jordan family of the Stalker/Sampson reports by British police into other ‘shoot-to-kill’ cases in the North.
* A refusal to permit the family’s lawyers to use these reports in cross-examination of RUC/PSNI witnesses who played key roles in Mr Jordan’s shooting, and other incidents examined by Stalker and Sampson.
* The decision to sit with a potentially split jury and the refusal to discharge a juror who insisted the inquest was unfair.
* The limited form of verdict returned by the inquest jury and the coroner’s acceptance of it.
A key part of the Jordan family’s challenge was to a jury sitting in such a controversial case in circumstances where unanimity is required.
The judge ruled today that “if there is a real risk of a perverse conclusion or bias on behalf of a single juror then there can be no other outcome... but that the inquest should be conducted without a jury.
On the failure to reveal parts of the Stalker/Sampson report, the judge said the potential impact of that evidence “could have been significant”.
“It is a matter for the coroner at the inquest which will now have to be held.”
Outside court, Hugh Jordan, Pearse’s father, expressed delight at the outcome. He said: “We have waited over 20 years for a proper inquest to be conducted fairly and thoroughly. Hopefully now it will be.”
His lawyer, Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, said: “This is an emphatic vindication of the Jordan family in bringing this application and the judgment will provide the framework for how future controversial inquests involving the use of lethal force by the British Army and RUC shall be conducted.
“The Jordan family are looking forward now to a new fair inquest heard solely before a coroner or judge, and free from the real risk of perverse verdicts from jurors who may be unable to set aside political or religious prejudices and to reach a verdict according to all of the evidence.”