Belfast High Court rejects call for Finucane inquiry

Court rules British prime minister had not acted unlawfully in refusing to hold a public inquiry

Geraldine Finucane (right), the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters

Geraldine Finucane (right), the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters

 

The High Court in Belfast has rejected a call by the Finucane family for a decision that would have compelled the British prime minister David Cameron to hold a public inquiry into Pat Finucane’s murder.

Lord Justice Stephens in issuing his findings on a judicial review taken by the Finucane family found today that Mr Cameron had not acted unlawfully in refusing to hold a public inquiry into the Belfast solicitor’s murder.

Mr Finucane was shot dead by a UDA gang in front of his wife Geraldine and family at their north Belfast home in 1989. The British government has apologised and accepted that there was official collusion in his murder but has refused to hold a full-scale public inquiry, as the family has been demanding.

Rather than holding a public inquiry the British government commissioned a review of the murder case by British lawyer Sir Desmond de Silva.

In his 2012 500-page report Sir Desmond reported that there was a significant doubt as to whether Mr Finucane would have been murdered had it not been for the different strands of involvement by elements of the British state.

He found that a series of positive actions by employees of the British state “actively furthered and facilitated his murder” and there was a relentless effort to defeat the ends of justice in the aftermath of his killing.

“My review of the evidence relating to Patrick Finucane’s case has left me in no doubt that agents of the State were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder,” it says.

Sir Desmond however said he did not believe there was an “over-arching state conspiracy” to murder Mr Finucane but that “an extraordinary state of affairs was created” in which both the British army and the RUC special branch had prior notice of a series of planned UDA assassinations, yet nothing was done to prevent the attacks.

The report said there were three UDA conspiracies to murder Mr Finucane that were known to RUC special branch and or MI5. These were in 1981, 1985 and 1988/89 and on none of these occasions was Mr Finucane warned of the threat against his life.

Mr Cameron said the “shocking levels of collusion” exposed by the report was “unacceptable” and apologised to the Finucane family: “I am deeply sorry,” he said. However, he again ruled out establishing an independent public inquiry.

At the time Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine dismissed the report a as “a sham... a whitewash... a confidence trick”. She renewed her call for a full public inquiry into her husband’s death and said, “This report is not the truth.”

The family followed up that review by taking the judicial review. Today Lord Justice Stephens ruled against the family on their main call for a public inquiry.

Speaking after the ruling, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan said: “The Irish Government’s position remains unchanged. We continue to believe that an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, in line with the political commitments made by the British and Irish Governments at Weston Park in 2001, should be honoured.”