Families angry at inquest delay
Published 15/11/2012 | 12:52
A coroner's decision to suspend inquest hearings into a series of controversial killings in Northern Ireland has provoked fury among relatives.
John Leckey decided to delay the cases after a clash with Attorney General John Larkin QC over whether he can deal with national security concerns raised during the inquests.
Kevin Winters, a lawyer for several of the victims' families, said the development was a backward step. He said: "It puts the issue of truth recovery in serious unresolved conflict killings back 20 years."
The Attorney General, the Northern Ireland Executive's top legal adviser, referred the cases to the coroner for fresh inquests.
Former Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott called on Mr Larkin to consider his position.
The inquest suspensions were announced just as the coroner was preparing to take preliminary hearings into two of the killings, one involving a schoolboy killed by a rubber bullet fired by British troops in West Belfast 40 years ago.
The families are considering a legal challenge in the High Court and the coroner indicated that is where the process could move to next following his intervention.
"It is possible that the orders made by the Attorney General were ultra vires (outside his powers)," he said.
He is to write to Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and the Attorney General seeking clarification after receiving an expert legal opinion on the matter.
Mr Larkin's office was established in 2010 but his jurisdiction was restricted, with some areas like national security remaining a matter for the Northern Ireland Secretary, and it is disputed by the coroner whether the Attorney General had the power to order inquests into material touching on national security issues.