Belfast Telegraph

Disclosure delay concerns revealed

The family of a man shot dead at a west Belfast peace line have expressed concern at the length of time the police have taken to disclose sensitive files on the murder.

A lawyer representing a relative of Liam Thompson was reacting to an update from the PSNI that the documents would likely not be available to view until Christmas.

Appearing at a preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast, Gemma McKeown, a Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) solicitor, said she understood that the files would be ready this month.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson said that was also her understanding of the disclosure timetable.

Mr Thompson was gunned down near a joint police and Army station in New Barnsley 20 years ago.

The 25-year-old, from Dermott Hill in Belfast, was shot dead by gunmen near the peace line at Springfield Park in April 1994.

Ms McKeown has previously outlined concerns of potential police collusion in the murder - namely that officers in the station did not do enough to prevent Mr Thompson's killers crossing the peace line.

Today the solicitor highlighted to the court that the first preliminary hearing in the case had been held in 2010 and, four years on, full disclosure had still not taken place.

"I wish to raise concerns about that delay," she said.

The lawyer stressed that the PSNI had obligations under Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights to act without undue delay.

"The relevant state agencies have obligations to act promptly under Article Two obligations involved in this case," she said.

But Mark Murray, representing the PSNI, insisted the Christmas timetable was in line with the police's disclosure schedule.

"I don't accept there has been undue delay," he said.

"The matter is progressing."

The lawyer said officers were close to preparing documents to go through the Public Interest Immunity (PII) process that could result in potential redactions on security grounds.

He said in the coming weeks the papers would be forwarded to lawyers for their opinion before being passed to Government ministers for an ultimate decision on whether they would be subject to a PII certificate.

The lawyer said it was his understanding that only the preparatory work for PII was to be completed this month, not the full process.

"This is not a simple process," he added.

"It has to be appreciated these are very delicate and sensitive matters that need the utmost concentration."

Ms Anderson suggested there may have been a "miscommunication" in regard to the disclosure timetable.

"My impression was that all documents would be available by end of September," she said.

The coroner said another preliminary hearing would be fixed before Christmas for an update on disclosure.

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