Judge to decide on Finucane files disclosure
Judge to decide on Finucane files disclosure


British government documents are being examined by a High Court judge who will decide if they should be disclosed to the family of Pat Finucane.

The Finucane family are bringing a legal challenge to the refusal to hold a full, independent inquiry into the 1989 murder of the leading Belfast defence lawyer. His assassination came after comments by a British minister about “IRA lawyers” and was carried out by British state agents operating within the unionist paramilitary UDA.

Justice Stephens said this week he needs to first inspect a series of documents and emails being sought by the Finucanes to consider their usefulness.

Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine wants full access to the material including minutes from cabinet meetings and correspondence between Downing Street officials.

An official ‘review’ of the case by a British Crown barrister last year claimed that there had been no political decision to carry out the killing at the solicitor’s north Belfast home. But Mrs Finucane condemned the report by QC Desmond de Silva as “a whitewash” and “a sham”.

During her application for complete disclosure of notes and recordings, the court was told of emailed correspondence in which one of Mr Cameron’s closest advisers described the murder as far worse than anything alleged in Iraq or Afghanistan. Jeremy Heywood, now cabinet secretary, also questioned whether the British PM believed it was right to “renege” on a previous administration’s commitment to hold a public inquiry.

Lawyers for the Finucane family argued that the case is about the past and present abuse of state power.

They said it involved the killing of a lawyer perceived to be “a thorn in the side” of the British government and Crown forces.

It was claimed that the abuse of power continued in 2011 when the current government reneged on a commitment to hold a public inquiry.

The court heard details of an email Heywood sent to Simon King, a private secretary to the prime minister, ahead of a ministerial meeting in July 2011.

In correspondence already disclosed to the parties, he asked: “Does the PM seriously think that it’s right to renege on a previous government’s clear commitment to hold a full judicial inquiry?

“This was a dark moment in the country’s history - far worse than anything that was alleged in Iraq/Afghanistan.

“I cannot really think of any argument to defend not having a public inquiry. What am I missing?”

A reply email stated that the prime minister “shares the view this is an awful case, and as bad as it gets, and far worse than any post-9/11 allegation”.

Material being sought by the Finucanes’ lawyers includes original notes, minutes, recordings or transcripts of a meeting between the British Direct Ruler in Ireland and the prime minister, meetings of British officials and ministers, and copies of letters from MI5 to officials in Belfast, all dating from 2011.

It is expected the British government will seek partial censorship (redaction) of the documents should the judge ultimately decide that the material should be handed over.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly said the correspondence already revealed in court pointed to the web of cover-up within the British government from the time of Pat Finucane’s killing.

“David Cameron's intelligence advisor said evidence available internally to the British government would, and I quote suggest that within government at a high level this systematic problem with loyalist agents was known, but nothing was done about it,” he said.

“It is clear from these comments why the British government are against a full public inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane.

“If David Cameron is to break with what his predecessors have done in Ireland then he needs to honour the commitment given at Weston Park and hold a public inquiry into this murder.

“If ever a case cried out for a public inquiry, this is one and these documents point to why the secrecy needs to end and the Finucane family be given access to the truth.”

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