Pearse Jordan: Inquest findings quashed into police shooting of IRA man
The findings of an inquest into the police shooting of an IRA man more than 20 years ago are to be quashed, a High Court judge ruled today.
In a verdict with potentially major implications for other legacy cases, Mr Justice Stephens indicated that a new tribunal examining the death of Pearse Jordan should sit without a jury.
He also found the PSNI responsible for a delay of up to 11 years in holding the hearing.
The judge will make a future determination on whether the police are liable for any damages over the hold-up.
Jordan was killed in disputed circumstances on the Falls Road in west Belfast in 1992.
Witnesses claimed the police 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.
In October 2012, 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.
The dead man's father, Hugh Jordan, then mounted a wide-ranging judicial review challenge to the outcome.
In a 129-page judgment Mr Justice Stephens held today that the inquest verdict should be quashed on a number of grounds.
:: The non-disclosure of the Stalker/Sampson reports into other so-called shoot to kill cases to the Jordan family.
:: A refusal to permit the family's lawyers to deploy these reports in cross-examination of key police witnesses who played key roles in the Jordan shooting and other incidents in the Stalker/Sampson probes.
:: The decision to sit with a jury.
:: The refusal to discharge a juror who claimed the inquest was unfair.
:: The limited form of verdict returned by the inquest jury and the coroner's acceptance of it.
Dealing with the failure to deploy parts of the Stalker/Sampson report, the judge said: "I also quash the verdict on this ground given that this evidence might have been admissible and that its potential impact could have been significant.
"It is a matter for the coroner at the inquest which will now have to be held."
Part of the Jordan family's challenge was to a jury sitting in a such controversial case of an alleged IRA man being killed by police.
Mr Justice Stephens said: "There cannot be an effective investigation where there is a real risk of a perverse verdict or bias.
"In circumstances where unanimity is required, if there is a real risk of a perverse conclusion or or bias on behalf of a single juror then there can be no other outcome... but that the inquest should be conducted without a jury.
"Accordingly if all legacy inquests fall within the category of cases where there is a real possibility of a perverse jury verdict then discretion should be exercised in all of them for them to be conducted without a jury."
Attributing delay to the PSNI, he pointed to the process around threat assessments and applications for witness anonymity.
"I consider that this was an obstacle or difficulty created by the PSNI which prevented progress of the inquest," he said.
Outside court Mr Jordan expressed delight at the outcome.
He said: "We have waited over 20 years for a proper inquest to be conducted fairly and thoroughly. Hopefully now it will be."
His lawyer, Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, said: "This is an emphatic vindication of the Jordan family in bringing this application and the judgment will provide the framework for how future controversial inquests involving the use of lethal force by the British Army and RUC shall be conducted.
"The Jordan family are looking forward now to a new fair inquest heard solely before a coroner or judge, and free from the real risk of perverse verdicts from jurors who may be unable to set aside political or religious prejudices and to reach a verdict according to all of the evidence."
Belfast Telegraph Digital