Top NI coroner to face challenge over inquests
Northern Ireland’s senior coroner is to face a High Court challenge over his decision to suspend inquests into a dozen controversial killings.
Judicial review proceedings are to be issued against John Leckey amid claims that the move puts the truth recovery process back 20 years.
Mr Leckey announced the adjournments because of potential British national security concerns.
New inquests were ordered by Attorney General John Larkin QC in an attempt to discover more about the circumstances surrounding the deaths. But the coroner adjourned the hearings amid concerns that Mr Larkin may have exceeded his powers.
Preliminary hearings into two of the deaths involved were due to get under way in Belfast yesterday: those of 11-year-old Francis Rowntree who was hit by a rubber bullet fired by a soldier in 1972, and the killing of Gerard Slane in 1988.
Slane, a 27-year-old father of three, was shot dead by the UDA at his west Belfast home. His killing sparked claims of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the British security forces.
Mr Leckey’s move drew criticism from solicitor Kevin Winters whose law firm acts for a number of families whose relatives were killed by the British army or RUC in contentious circumstances.,
“This development represents a backward step and puts the issue of truth recovery in serious unresolved conflict killings back 20 years. We have put the High Court on notice now that we will be seeking [a] judicial review of the decision,” added Mr Winter.
The Ballymurphy families said the coroner’s decision also affected their case. They have been seeking an inquest and official inquiry into the killings by the British army of 11 people in Ballymurphy, west Belfast in 1971. The families said they were also considering taking a judicial review.