Integrity of IRA man's inquest 'compromised by using former Special Branch officers in disclosure process'
Published 01/10/2013 | 15:35
The integrity of an inquest into the death of an IRA man shot by police 21 years ago was compromised by using former Special Branch officers in the disclosure process, the High Court heard today.
Lawyers for the family of Pearse Jordan claimed their involvement raises issues of institutional independence and apparent bias.
The allegations were made as part of a legal bid to quash the findings reached by a jury at the tribunal into his death.
Jordan, 23, was killed in disputed circumstances on the Falls Road, west Belfast in November 1992.
Witnesses claimed the RUC shot him in the back as he tried to flee after the stolen car he was driving was rammed.
His death was one of several high-profile cases in Northern Ireland involving allegations of a 'shoot-to-kill' policy operated by the security forces.
Last October a long-delayed inquest failed to reach agreement on key aspects.
The jury was split on whether reasonable force was used in the circumstances, the state of belief on the part of the officer who fired the fatal shots, and whether any alternative course of action was open to him.
They did agree that Jordan was shot by an RUC officer after he got out a red Ford Orion car which had been forcibly brought to a stop on the Falls Road.
Jurors also endorsed the findings of a post mortem examination that he died of a bullet wound to his chest.
The Jordan family's legal team claim the inquest was ineffective and violated human rights requirements. They want a new hearing ordered.
As part of a wide-ranging bid for a judicial review they have called into question the disclosure process under which police provide all relevant documents to the coroner.
Barrister Karen Quinlivan argued that using former Special Branch officers compromised the independence of the inquest.
"Many of those involved in the disclosure process knew those who were under investigation personally and had served with them professionally," she said.
"This clearly raises a concern about apparent bias, not simply from an institutional but a personal perspective."
She questioned how many officers involved knew those whose conduct was being scrutinised and why they failed to disclose relevant information to the coroner.
Counsel for the coroner responded to claims that he failed to take adequate steps to protect the independence of the process by contending that it was up to the Chief Constable to decide who to use for the job.
There is no evidence to justify a finding that the integrity of the inquest was jeopardised by any alleged failing on the coroner's part, he added.
Lawyers for the Chief Constable are expected to set out their case when the hearing resumes tomorrow.