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Family of murdered lawyer Pat Finucane awarded costs over failed legal challenge to PM Cameron

By Alan Erwin

Published 09/09/2015

Murdered: solicitor Pat Finucane
Murdered: solicitor Pat Finucane

The Government has failed in a bid to force murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane's widow to pick up the legal bill after she was denied a public inquiry into the killing.

A judge instead ordered that Geraldine Finucane should be awarded her costs in bringing the High Court challenge.

With the overall costs of the case estimated to be in the region of £150,000, the solicitor's family accused the Government of "cheap and vindictive" actions aimed at discouraging them from any appeal against the outcome.

In June Mr Justice Stephens ruled that Prime Minister David Cameron acted lawfully in refusing to hold a public inquiry into the assassination.

Mr Finucane was gunned down by loyalist terrorists in front of his wife and their three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989.

His family have campaigned for a full examination of alleged security force collusion with the killers.

Mrs Finucane took the Prime Minister to court after he ruled out a public inquiry in 2011.

Instead, Mr Cameron commissioned QC Sir Desmond de Silva to review all documents relating to the case and produce a narrative of what happened.

Sir Desmond's report confirmed agents of the State were involved in the murder and that it should have been prevented. However, it concluded there had been no overarching State conspiracy.

The Finucane family rejected the findings as a whitewash.

They accused the Government of unlawfully reneging on a commitment to hold a public inquiry.

Pledges to set up such a tribunal, based on the recommendation of retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, were made by a former Labour Government in 2004 and reaffirmed in the following years, it was contended.

In his verdict Mr Justice Stephens held that Mrs Finucane had received a clear and unambiguous promise that an inquiry would take place.

Despite throwing out Mrs Finucane's legal bid to force the authorities to publicly examine her husband's killing, the judge also said the State has not fully met its human rights obligation to investigate.

In court yesterday he agreed to make a formal declaration to reflect that finding.

John Finucane, the murdered solicitor's son, accused the Government of breaking a pledge to order a public inquiry.

He said: "To then seek to fix our family with the costs of challenging the decision to break its promise, the Secretary of State acted in a cheap and vindictive manner, and sought to deter us from considering an appeal."

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