The British government tried to pressurise Britain’s top police officer in a bid to halt a public inquiry into the assassination of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane, it emerged in court today.

As Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine today continued her legal battle with the government in a bid to force a judicial review, it was alleged that attempts were made to use London police chief John Stevens and his officers to prevent an inquiry.

Stevens was urged to falsely declare his probe into the controversial killing could lead to a number of prosecutions which would block any such inquiry.

Even though retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory found enough evidence of security force collusion to call for a hearing into the February 1989 Finucane murder, the British government has so far refused the growing demands.

Stevens, who has made his own investigation into the killing, was consulted after the Cory report was handed to the authorities last year, it emerged today.

When the Stevens team met the Finucane family for the first time in Belfast in February, it disclosed it was being urged to declare “a whole string” of arrests and charges were imminent.

Seamus Treacy QC, for Mrs Finucane, told the High Court in Belfast: “The court has been told nothing at all about this post-Cory consultation exercise where the government have been attempting to lean on the Stevens team to get them to say that future prosecutions would be an obstacle to a public inquiry.”

However, the Stevens team replied that they could quite confidently say that the only impediment to a public inquiry was the case of Ken Barrett, who has been charged with murder in the case.

Stevens informed the family that that obstacle could be removed by September when the accused is due to go on trial.

A lawyer for the British government refused to confirm if it would hold a public inquiry into Mr Finucane’s killing, and refused to even be drawn to hint on the matter.

The judge stressed he had been given a number of opportunities to end the uncertainty.

Outside the court, Mrs Finucane vowed to hold the authorities to commitments she insisted had been made.

“This just emphasises that the government intends to renege on their promises and are continuing the delay there’s been for the last 15 years,” she said.

“Judge Cory has said there should be an inquiry. At one point we didn’t believe it would get that far.

“As a government it should not welsh on a promise.”

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