Belfast Telegraph

Bereaved forced to wait up to 40 years for inquest

By Staff Reporter

Relatives in some of Northern Ireland's most controversial deaths have waited up to 40 years for an inquest.

The average delay in so-called legacy cases now stands at more than 20 years.

Latest figures from the Court Service show 46 legacy inquests, relating to 75 deaths, are still outstanding.

Many of the killings were carried out by the security forces in bitterly disputed circumstances, or involved allegations of state collusion with paramilitaries.

About half of the outstanding inquests, some of which date back to the early 1970s, were opened shortly after the deaths, but then adjourned and never concluded.

Others were reopened in recent years at the direction of John Larkin, the Attorney General, because of failings in the original hearings.

The oldest outstanding case relates to the death of Bernard Watt, who was shot by soldiers in Ardoyne in early 1971.

In February, senior coroner John Leckey criticised the time some inquests were taking.

It came after a preliminary hearing was told full inquests into the deaths of republicans and police officers killed in disputed circumstances in Mid-Ulster 30 years ago may not begin for months or even years.

In 2012 the European Court of Human Rights ruled the Government had violated the rights of two families by failing to hold an inquest into the deaths of two IRA men for 22 years.

Dessie Grew and Martin McCaughey were shot dead by the SAS at Loughgall in October 1990. However, it was 2012 before their inquest finally took place.

European judges warned that police and soldiers responsible for killings here could "benefit from virtual impunity" because of the length of the delays.

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