Belfast Telegraph

Storm over Troubles deaths files: Villiers and PSNI launch gagging bid as Sinn Fein minister releases sensitive inquest documents to families seeking truth over killings

BY ALAN ERWIN AND CLAIRE GRAHAM

A legal storm is brewing following the release of sensitive inquest documents relating to three historic Troubles killings.

Emergency proceedings were issued by the Chief Constable and the Northern Ireland Secretary after Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin personally handed over the court files to victims' group Relatives for Justice and KRW Law firm.

A decision over whether information relating to three killings stretching back more than 40 years should be given full public access has been postponed until Thursday.

Matt Baggott and Theresa Villiers believe sensitive details which could identify security force members should have been removed before circulation.

That view has been backed by the Justice Minister who said he is "extremely disappointed" Ms Ni Chuilin didn't take his, nor the police's, advice before passing on the files.

The files include the Army shooting of IRA man Paddy McAdorey in Belfast in 1971, the killing of social work student Michael Donnelly by a plastic bullet in 1980, and the loyalist murder of mum-of-two Sarah Larmour a year earlier.

Ms Ni Chuilin's department is responsible for the Public Record Office where the papers are held.

Lawyers for the Secretary of State and Chief Constable secured a temporary injunction at the weekend to block their circulation.

The Northern Ireland Office said the documents could put those named at "serious risk".

The Secretary of State said the release of the documents was in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the lives of those identified, and allowing full public access to the papers could endanger those named.

Relevant rights under that Convention include the right to life under Article 2 and the right to a fair trial under Article 6.

The Secretary of State wrote to the Culture Minister setting out what information could be released to families in accordance with that obligation, and outlining the reasons for sensitivity.

The PSNI and the Department of Justice also expressed concerns and wrote in similar terms.

The case came before Belfast High Court yesterday. A full hearing will be held later this week.

Outside the court, solicitor Niall Murphy of KRW Law, representing the McAdorey family, expressed concern at the timing of the legal move.

He pointed out that the injunction prevents use of the material by next of kin seeking a fresh inquiry into the killing.

Mr Murphy said: "The attempt by the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable to overturn the minister's decision is a major setback to the cause of seeking to ensure the state's compliance with its positive obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights."

Justice Minister David Ford said: "I'm extremely disappointed that she doesn't seem to have taken any advice from my department, the police, and she has gone ahead and issued those documents."

A spokesman for the PSNI declined to comment.

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