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Jean McConville's family granted right to seek review of PSNI decision on report into killing

Published 20/01/2016

Jean McConville was dragged screaming from her children in west Belfast in 1972 by a gang of up to 12 men and women after being wrongly accused of informing to the security forces (handout/PA Wire)
Jean McConville was dragged screaming from her children in west Belfast in 1972 by a gang of up to 12 men and women after being wrongly accused of informing to the security forces (handout/PA Wire)

The family of a mother-of-ten abducted and murdered by the IRA have cleared the first stage in their High Court battle to gain access to the findings of a police investigation.

Disappeared victim Jean McConville's children were granted leave to seek a judicial review over the continued non-disclosure of the Historical Enquiries Team's draft report into her killing.

Ruling that they had established an arguable case, a judge acknowledged their "enormous suffering" throughout the last 43 years.

Mr Justice Maguire said today: "They have waited extremely patiently over an unconscionable period of time to discover more about the circumstances of their mother's disappearance and death."

Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in December 1972 after wrongly being accused of acting as an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried. Her body was only discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

Three years later the Police Ombudsman concluded that a proper investigation into the murder was not carried out for more than two decades.

Seven of Mrs McConville's children are involved in the legal action aimed at forcing the PSNI to publish the contents of the HET report.

Counsel for the Chief Constable stressed that the findings will be made available once there is no risk of prejudicing any prosecutions.

But the McConville family insist they would be happy to see a redacted version if that ensured no threat to criminal proceedings.

Their barrister, Danny Friedman QC, argued that any police shortcomings before or after the abduction identified in the report should not be used as a reason for continuing to withhold it.

He cited claims by the victim's son, James McConville, that the police in the guise of the HET are continuing to fail the family.

Mr McConville, in an affidavit, stated: "Our lives have been devastated by the murder of our mother and the widespread failure of the authorities to investigate."

He added that provision of the report would help achieve a resolution and closure.

Leave to apply for a judicial review was granted on grounds that non-disclosure was allegedly unreasonable and in breach of an Article 2 obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Commending the family for their approach to the legal challenge, Mr Justice Maguire added: "No-one could possibly accuse the applicants in this case of rushing into proceedings, or expecting a miracle or anything of that type."

The case will now advance to a full judicial review hearing later this year.

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