In three separate cases, the families of victims of state killings have received a boost to their legal challenges for proper inquest.
A new inquest was ordered into the death of one IRA Volunteer youth shot by British soldiers on the morning of the invasion of Free Derry, known as ‘Operation Motorman’.
Seamus Bradley was 19 years of age when he was shot and killed by soldiers attempting to take control of an area held by the IRA in 1972.
Following the shooting, the teenager’s body was not recovered for around an hour, after which he was taken to a British Army base rather than hospital. While he was shot four times, he died some time later as a result of blood loss.
The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) last year concluded that Mr Bradley’s death was not properly investigated at the time. However, it claimed that soldiers acted lawfully -- if they were telling the truth.
A recent internal British police report has described the HET’s handling of British military witnesses as excessively lenient.
Attorney General John Larkin agreed this week that the death was not properly investigated. Larkin also expressed concern over the failure to ensure Seamus received medical attention in time.
“What remains of concern is the length of time it took the army to collect Mr Seamus Bradley’s body once he had been shot and the absence of care after he had been taken into military custody,” he said.
JORDAN FAMILY PURSUE JUSTICE
In a separate development earlier this month, the family of another IRA Volunteer shot by police have been granted leave for an attempt to have the findings of a recent inquest quashed.
A High Court judge granted said they could see a judicial review of the verdict reached at last October’s tribunal into the death of Pearse Jordan.
Lawyers for the Jordan family say the inquest was unfair and want a new hearing ordered.
Amid claims the hearing was ineffective and “hopelessly divided”, Mr Justice Stephens said that lawyers for the dead man’s relatives had established an arguable case.
Pearse was killed on the Falls Road, west Belfast in November 1992 when the RUC shot him in the back as he tried to flee after the car he was driving was rammed.
His death was one of several high-profile cases involving a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy operated by the British Crown forces.
After 21 years delay, last year’s inquest failed to reach agreement on key aspects. Mr Justice Stephens agreed, ruling that the challenge had passed the first hurdle and can proceed to a full hearing in the autumn, describing the issues as having “considerable public significance”.
EURO COURT CONDEMNS DELAY
In another positive development, a European Court has ruled that Britain breached the human rights of relatives of two IRA Volunteers by failing to promptly investigate their deaths at the hands of the British Army’s murderous SAS.
The European Court of Human rights found that British authorities also failed the family of a west Belfast man, who sustained fatal injuries when he was beaten by riot police, in the same way.
Judges criticised the lengthy delays in holding inquests into the 1990 killing of IRA members Martin McCaughey and Desmond Grew in Loughgall, Co armagh, and into the death of John Hemsworth in 1998, six months after he was beaten by police in Belfast.
Inquests into both incidents were only heard within the last two years, with issues such a disclosure of British papers the source of many hold-ups. The court upheld complaints by the families of the three men that the cases were subject to excessive investigative delays and, as a consequence, found the state guilty of “procedural violations” of Article Two of the European Convention on Human rights - the right to life.