Families 'should see' reports on 'shoot to kill' deaths
Published 27/05/2010 | 00:01
Controversial reports into alleged security force "shoot to kill" deaths in Northern Ireland should be released to the victims' families, the High Court has ruled.
Police chief constable Matt Baggott was ordered to disclose the whole of the Stalker and Sampson reports with sensitive areas being potentially omitted. The judgment was delivered by Mr Justice John Gillen in Belfast on Thursday.
Delayed inquests dating back almost 30 years are now one step closer to proceeding.
Mr Justice Gillen said: "If inquests are to maintain public confidence, put minds at rest and answer the questions of the families who are bereaved, it is vital to ensure that the interested parties/next of kin can participate in an informed, open and transparent fashion on an equal footing with all other parties throughout the various stages of the inquest including, at the outset of the process, the very scope of the inquest.
"This can only be achieved where appropriate disclosure has been made of potentially relevant material."
The inquests include the November 1982 deaths of IRA men Sean Burns, Eugene Toman and Gervaise McKerr near Lurgan, County Armagh. Police fired 109 bullets into the car they were travelling in after they claimed it crashed through a checkpoint.
It later emerged the three were suspected of involvement in the killings of three Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers in a bomb a fortnight earlier and had been under observation.
The coroner also plans inquests into the death of Catholic teenager Michael Tighe, shot dead by police at a hay shed near Craigavon, County Armagh in November 1982, and suspected Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) men Roddy Carroll and Seamus Grew, shot dead near Armagh in December 1982.
The government has always denied any "shoot-to-kill" policy existed and has resisted calls from families to look again at what happened. Police took Thursday's judicial review to the High Court. Mr Justice Gillen called for a "generous" approach to disclosure.
He said: "The coroner is constrained by the concepts of fairness, proportionality and transparency inherent in the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. I believe it is an entirely rational and proportionate decision for him to conclude that this means that he must permit the families of the deceased to see the entirety of the Stalker and Sampson reports - he having determined them 'generally relevant'- whilst at the same time, recognising the need to protect sensitive material and the Article 2 rights (to life) under the Convention of police officers etc."