A legal challenge to a report identifying police failures around an IRA bomb that killed three neighbours should be thrown out for being out of time, the High Court heard today.
Lawyers for one of the victims claimed the retired RUC officers' case cannot continue because proceedings were issued beyond a three-month deadline.
Even though the application for judicial review has already cleared the first stage a judge has now asked for an explanation on the delay.
Mr Justice Treacy said: "The issue of delay is so stark that there is a jurisdictional issue for the court on whether there is any good reason to extend time."
The legal action centres on a Police Ombudsman report into a booby-trap bombing in Derry in August 1988.
Eugene Dalton, 54, and Sheila Lewis, 68, were killed in the explosion at a house in the city's Creggan area of Derry.
A third victim, 57-year-old Gerard Curran, died months after being pulled from the rubble.
The attack became known as the 'Good Samaritan bomb' because the three friends had gone to check on the whereabouts of a neighbour kidnapped earlier by the IRA.
The IRA later apologised, admitting it planted the booby trap device in a bid to kill soldiers.
Nearly two decades later members of Mr Dalton's family lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman's Office that the RUC had been negligent and failed in its duty to uphold their father's right to life under Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In July last year the Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, published his findings that police officers had information about an IRA booby trap bomb in a house in the Creggan Estate but did nothing to warn residents of the possible danger.
He identified a failure in the police obligation to protect the lives of the public.
The report provoked a furious reaction within the The Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association.
It launched a legal bid to have the findings quashed and, earlier this year, was granted leave to seek a judicial review.
But in court today senior counsel for the Dalton family argued that the case must be dismissed because it was brought more than three months after the report was published.
According to Barry Macdonald QC it would be wrong to continue because of the impact on his client.
He said: "If this matter is allowed to proceed the family whom I represent will suffer the consequences because there will be continuing uncertainty about the resolution of this issue."
Adjourning the hearing until Tuesday, Mr Justice Treacy told lawyers for the Association he was giving them until then to submit further evidence and arguments before deciding whether the challenge can continue.
He added: "Plainly because of the delay there has already been any further delay is a matter of concern to a range of people that will include the families of the victims."