Legal breakthrough in shoot-to-kill cases

The father of an IRA Volunteer shot dead by the British Army’s SAS in 1990 today won a five-year legal battle over disclosure of confidential British reports about the killing.

The Law Lords ruled that the PSNI police must hand over intelligence information about the shooting of Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew by the undercover military unit outside Loughgall, County Armagh to the coroner who will hear the inquest into their deaths.

The judgment overturned an earlier Court of Appeal ruling that the PSNI was entitled to limit the information passed to the coroner.

McCaughey and Grew were shot dead in a shoot-to-kill operation by British forces in the battle against the IRA.

The inquests into the men’s deaths have long been delayed and McCaughey’s father Owen, launched his lengthy legal bid after the PSNI Chief Hugh Orde refused to release the uncensored intelligence reports.

Following a six-day hearing in January the Law Lords ruled today that Orde must disclose the reports in full.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Francie Molloy welcomed the judgment as paving the way for full and open inquests into the killings of McCaughey and Grew.

He said: “Sinn Féin share the belief of the families that full disclosure of all relevant documentation will illustrate the fact that the British government operated a shoot-to-kill policy and we will continue to stand with the families in their search for the truth.”

Later in the judgment the five Law Lords upheld a Court of Appeal ruling that coroners` courts in the North should not be permitted to reach verdicts of “lawful” or “unlawful” killing about the police shooting of another IRA Volunteer.

They said the jury which hears the inquest into the death of Pearse Jordan may make “relevant factual findings” pertinent to the killing.

Jordan’s car was rammed by RUC police who then shot him in the back as he tried to run away.

Lawyers acting for both the McCaughey and Jordan families welcomed the decisions which they said would have serious implications for the inquests.

Peter Madden of Madden and Finucane said: “The RUC, now the PSNI, can no longer dictate which information it chooses to withhold from scrutiny.

“A previous challenge by Hugh Jordan led to a change to the rules governing inquests and for the first time members of the RUC and the British army responsible for lethal force shootings are compellable witnesses at inquests and they will be cross-examined by lawyers for the families.

“Now the coroner can make factual findings pointing towards a conclusion that criminal or civil responsibility exists.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News