Belfast Telegraph

Family considers inquest jury issue

The family of a man knocked down and killed by a police Land Rover are to consider whether a jury should deliberate on his inquest in the wake of a legal challenge questioning the current juror system, a coroner has been told.

James McMenamin, 29, was struck by the PSNI vehicle on the Springfield Road in the city in June 2005.

At a preliminary court hearing in Belfast ahead of an inquest into Mr McMenamin's death, his relatives' lawyer said their views on whether a jury should hear the case were being influenced by a pending judicial review of the verdict in another controversial case.

Those legal proceedings were taken by the family of IRA man Pearse Jordan after inquest jurors last year failed to reach agreement on many of the key issues relating to the RUC shooting of the 22-year-old on the Falls Road in 1992.

One of the issues the review is set to examine is whether the requirement for unanimity on an inquest jury deliberating on contentious deaths involving the security forces in Northern Ireland is appropriate given the often divisive nature and context of the cases.

It is due to be heard in Belfast High Court next month.

Fiona Doherty, representing the McMenamin family, today told coroner Suzanne Anderson they would like one week to consider their position on the matter.

Suggesting that a final outcome of the judicial review could be a long time coming, given the potential for appeal or recourse to a higher court, Ms Doherty said the relatives had to decide if they wanted to wait on that ruling, and as a consequence face the prospect of the inquest being significantly delayed.

"If they could have one week to mull over the issue," she asked Ms Anderson.

"One of the things weighing heavily on them is if there is a possibility of a further extensive delay should they await the outcome of the judicial review."

Ms Anderson said it was originally envisaged that a jury should sit on the inquest, but said there would be "some flexibility" on the issue.

She agreed to postpone a decision on a jury until the family had considered the issue.

Controversy surrounds the death of Mr McMenamin, with disputed claims on whether or not officers inside the Land Rover, who were responding to an emergency call, had deployed the siren prior to striking him in the early hours of June 4 2005.

A subsequent investigation by then Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan found that the siren was on and said there was nothing to suggest the collision was anything other than a "tragic accident".

A provisional date for the full inquest has been set for January 27 next year.

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