The family of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1972, have cleared the first stage in their High Court fight to gain access to the findings of a police investigation.
The children of Mrs McConville, one of the so called Disappeared, were granted leave to seek a judicial review over the continued non-disclosure of the Historical Enquiries Team’s draft report into her killing.
Ruling that they had established an arguable case, Mr Justice Maguire acknowledged their “enormous suffering” over the last 43 years.
“They have waited extremely patiently over an unconscionable period of time to discover more about the circumstances of their mother’s disappearance and death,” he said.
Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in December 1972 after wrongly being accused of acting as an informer. Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried. Her body was only discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.
Thee years later the Police Ombudsman concluded that a proper investigation into the murder was not carried out for more than two decades. One man, Ivor Bell (78), is currently facing a charge of soliciting to murder over an allegation that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill Mrs McConville.
Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, is seeking to have the case against him thrown out before it reaches trial. His lawyers claim he doesn't have a case to answer on a charge based on an alleged interview with researchers from Boston College in the United States.
Seven of Mrs McConville’s children are involved in the legal action aimed at forcing the PSNI to publish the contents of the draft report.
Counsel for the PSNI chief constable stressed that the findings will be made available once there is no risk of prejudicing any prosecutions. But the McConville family insist they would be happy to see a redacted version if that ensured no threat to criminal proceedings.
Danny Friedman QC, for the McConville’s, argued that any police shortcomings before or after the abduction identified in the report should not be used as a reason for continuing to withhold it.
Leave to apply for a judicial review was granted on grounds that non-disclosure was allegedly unreasonable and in breach of an Article 2 obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights.