Inquiry hears of intimidation of lawyers

The Rosemary Nelson inquiry has been told that defence lawyers were subject to “deliberate and systematic intimidation” by the RUC police.

Ms Nelson was killed in a booby-trap car bomb after being allegedly targeted by hostile members of the RUC.

Senior solicitor, Barra McGrory QC, told the inquiry in his statement that the RUC’s behaviour at the time “indicated a deep and maligned mindset of hostility towards defence lawyers”.

Barra McGrory, who also represents Rosemary Nelson’s widower Paul in the inquiry, went to the witness box to describe how lawyers began reporting allegations of intimidation by the RUC in the years just prior to Rosemary Nelson’s murder in 1999.

Rosemary Nelson had been particularly concerned about threats, he told the inquiry. “In the conversations I had with her in the prison and on the phone, the subject came up every time. She was concerned that Pat Finucane’s murder [by the UDA in 1989] wasn’t receiving enough attention,” he added.

The inquiry saw statements from clients she had submitted to the Law Society, describing intimidation through clients.

One client said in his statement that arresting members of the RUC told him that Rosemary Nelson wouldn’t get him off this time because she would be dead soon. He made the statement a year before she was murdered.

Barra McGrory said several clients had told him of threats against him made by RUC detectives interviewing them.

On one occasion, he said he parked at a petrol station when he went to see a client in the RUC’s Castlereagh holding centre. He said that client was later told that if Barra McGrory parked there again, he could wind up like Pat Finucane.

Prior to mid-1990s, “we hadn’t made such a big issue of it,” he told the inquiry.

“Perhaps in hindsight we should have done so”. He said that it was only when the UN and other non-governmental organisations began asking about the intimidation that “we realised how badly we were treated and how dangerous this was”.


A judge this week asked the British government to reconsider its refusal to include Crown prosecutors in the Hamill inquiry into Crown force collusion.

Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward had refused to broaden the scope of the inquiry’s terms of reference to include questionable decisions by Britain’s prosecution service.

Robert Hamill died in hospital after being attacked by a unionist mob in Portadown, County Armagh in 1997, as the RUC looked on. Although considerable evidence emerged in the case, Crown prosecutors did not pursue charges against a number of suspects.

After a seven-year-long campaign, the Hamill family, like the Nelson and Wright families, secured a limited inquiry under special new legislation restricting the scope and powers of the inquiry.

At a judicial review at Belfast’s High Court, Mr Justice Weatherup said public interest was not satisfied by Woodward’s decision to ignore the actions of the prosecutors, and insisted Woodward reconsider.

However, the judge also rejected objections to the involvement of the British Attorney General -- who is part of the British government and head of the prosecution service -- in advising Woodward.


The death has taken place of the INLA Volunteer responsible for the fatal attack on notorious LVF leader Billy ‘King Rat’ Wright inside Long Kesh prison in 1997. The attack marked a turning point in the conflict and is currently the subject of a public inquiry.

Christopher ‘Crip’ McWilliams died at the age of 44 after a lengthy battle with skin cancer. Gallagher revealed that the ailing INLA man had been prepared to face being sent back to prison by the Wright Inquiry in the weeks before he died.

In a traditional republican military funeral this week, an INLA colour party flanked the coffin, draped with the Starry Plough flag.

Delivering the graveside oration, Irish Republican Socialist Party leader Willie Gallagher revealed that McWilliams had been prepared to face being sent back to prison by the Wright Inquiry in the weeks before he died.

“Crip had been looking forward to cooperating with the Wright Inquiry and had been in contact with them through his solicitor in recent months,” he said.

“However when they threatened to send him back to prison unless he revealed the identities of those who had helped in the assassination of Billy Wright he told them to do their worst.

“He was prepared to cooperate with the inquiry as best he could, but he was not going to compromise his INLA comrades in any way.

“He told me that if that meant him having to go back to prison then so be it.”

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