A coroner investigating the killings of two IRA men shot dead by soldiers more than 20 years ago must examine the “planning and control of the operation” that led to the deaths, senior judges have ruled.
Their decision could have far-reaching consequences for other inquiries into killings where the State is implicated, a solicitor for the victims’ families claimed.
The Supreme Court in London said there had been allegations that Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew — shot and killed by British troops near Loughgall, Co Armagh, in 1990 — were victims of a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy.
And a panel of seven Supreme Court justices ruled that the inquest should not be restricted to “establishing by what means” the men met their deaths.
Relatives of the men — allegedly killed by members of the Special Air Service (SAS) — sought a ruling by the Supreme Court, the highest court in England and Northern Ireland, after disagreements over the scope of the inquest, said judges.
Supreme Court president Lord Phillips said a coroner “must comply” with European human rights legislation which protected the “right to life” and obliged authorities to carry out “effective investigations” into the circumstances of deaths.
A Northern Ireland coroner had held a preliminary hearing, said Lord Phillips. A date for the full inquest has yet to be confirmed.
The solicitor for the families, Fearghal Shiels, said: “This decision represents a major victory for the families,” he said.
Grew, of Charlemont, Co Armagh, and McCaughey, of Galbally, Co Tyrone, were shot dead near outbuildings in rural Armagh on October 9, 1990. Lawyers for the families say the shootings were part of a series of incidents which led to allegations that security services were operating a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy. Both were riddled with bullets, and controversy followed when the Army claimed the men were holding guns, but republicans said they were unarmed.