Irish Republican News · January 17, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Inquest in jeopardy


An inquest into the murder of prominent Gaelic sports official, Sean Brown, may have to be abandoned because of the failure of the PSNI police to hand over documents relevant to the case.

The PSNI has said it may need three years to review the “sensitive” files and to blank out details which it considers to be still classified information.

Coroner John Leckey said the inquest is due to proceed in March, but may not be able to go ahead if the relevant files are not forthcoming.

Mr Brown was abducted and shot by unionist paramilitaries after locking up a GAA club in Bellaghy, County Derry, in May 1997.

His cold-blooded murder was one of a number of targeted assassinations of prominent nationalist figures by loyalist death squads, often in collusion with British Crown force personnel.

No-one has ever been charged with the killing, described by the coroner as among the most “dreadful” of the conflict.

The PSNI’s reluctance to pass on a crucial report by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team (HET) had been a major obstacle for the Brown inquest.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said the report was still in draft format and had not been formally “quality assured”.

“As a result of budget cuts the chief constable has been forced to re-evaluate how we do business,” he said.

Under the Stormont House Agreement reached by the political parties before Christmas, an historical investigations unit (HIU) is to take responsibility for examining legacy cases.

However, the implementation of the talks deal is now being used as an additional excuse to delay legal proceedings in the North.

Lawyer Kevin Winters said the said the delays were having a disastrous impact on the Brown family who were being retraumatised.

He also said they planned to press ahead with plans to bring legal action against the PSNI, the British government and the Coroner’s Service over the handling of so-called ‘legacy’ cases.

Mr Winters said: “I think it is highly significant that the coroner has directed a senior officer come to court this week to explain the absolutely disgraceful state of affairs which has resulted in not one single shred of paper being made available to us as legal advisers on behalf of the Brown family. It is bordering on the farcical.

“A date was fixed for this case a year and a half ago and despite that passage of time we are coming to court with some degree of hope that we might get the case on in March but absolutely no prospect at this stage.

“The PSNI have not made the necessary efforts to deal with this case. We have all heard at length and ad nauseam that resources continues to be a problem but that particular problem arose late in the day last year. For a significant period of time prior to the resources excuse there was ample time to have this case prepared.

“[There is also] the continued failure by the Department of Justice to make the necessary money available, not just in this case, but a vast number of other similarly themed legacy issues.”

Sinn Fein Assembly member Pat Sheehan has said the PSNI failed today to inspire confidence they will produce the evidence needed for the Sean Brown inquest to proceed in March.

“Which Superintendent Murphy outlined a recent lack of resources, the PSNI have had this information for several years and it should have been prepared as evidence before now.

“These delays are only adding to the trauma of the Brown family. The timetable being set out today by the PSNI of another three years is totally unacceptable.

“The PSNI must set a deadline of March for presenting these files so that the inquest into the murder of Sean Brown can go ahead.

“It’s long past time for the Brown family to get access to the truth about what happened to Sean.”

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