Coroner ‘startled’ by British failure to reply on files

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A coroner examining the death of a man shot during a prison break has expressed concern at the ongoing failure by the Attorney General in London to respond to a request for files related to the case.

Hugh Gerard Coney was shot in the back by a British soldier as he and other internees tried to escape the Long Kesh prison camp in 1974.

The republican had used a tunnel to escape the prison and was running across a field close to the perimeter fence when he was shot. A fresh inquest into the killing of the 24-year-old from Coalisland, County Tyrone, is due to be heard next February.

At a pre-inquest review hearing at Belfast Coroner’s Court on Monday, coroner Anne Louise Toal was told that nine months of attempts to contact the office of Suella Braverman, the Attorney General for England and Wales, had gone without a response.

The coroner is seeking any documents the office may hold related to the 1974 incident.

Counsel for the coroner Leona Askin told her that there had been no response at all from Braverman’s office, “not even an acknowledgement”.

Ms Toal said she found the lack of response “quite startling” and formally requested that the office replies within four weeks.

“I’m highly surprised given the fact it is the Attorney General’s office and as I understand it this correspondence has been going on since September of last year,” she said.

“Yet to have no response from a governmental public body after this length of time is frankly quite startling.”

Sinn Féin’s Linda Dillon has said, after almost 50 years, the family of Hugh Coney should not have to wait any longer for truth and justice.

“This is yet another example of the callous disregard of Boris Johnson’s Tory government who are shamefully proposing an amnesty for British soldiers who carried-out British State murder in Ireland and attempting to shut down investigations preventing victims and families from accessing the courts.”

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