Belfast Telegraph

Family of Thomas Burns, shot by Army in Belfast, can challenge inquest ruling

The family of a man shot dead by a soldier almost 50 years ago has been granted leave by the High Court to challenge the original inquest verdict of “misadventure”. (stock photo)
The family of a man shot dead by a soldier almost 50 years ago has been granted leave by the High Court to challenge the original inquest verdict of “misadventure”. (stock photo)

By Mark McConville

The family of a man shot dead by a soldier almost 50 years ago has been granted leave by the High Court to challenge the original inquest verdict of "misadventure".

Thomas Burns was shot as he left the Glenpark Social Club in north Belfast on July 12, 1972.

He passed away the following day. The judicial review challenge will be heard by the High Court on January 9.

Harte Coyle Collins solicitors, acting for Mr Burns' daughter Patricia, applied to the Attorney General for a fresh inquest in 2015.

Further submissions were made by the solicitors earlier this year in relation to the original verdict of misadventure found by the inquest jury in April 1973.

According to the solicitors, Attorney General John Larkin has accepted that Mr Burns was an innocent victim and that the verdict of misadventure was wrong in both fact and law, but denied the family a fresh inquest on the basis that there was no usefulness to an inquest 47 years after their father was killed.

The family sought leave of the High Court by way of judicial review procedure to challenge the Attorney General's decision.

Patricia Burns said: "We need to rewrite history for myself, my family and my children, and most importantly for my daddy.

"We look forward to the court hearing.

"I intend to go to whatever lengths I have to seek justice for our father."

In 2013 the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) identified and liaised with new witnesses, some of whom were soldiers on duty in Glenpark Street and Louisa Street at the time Mr Burns was killed. One of those soldiers witnessed the shooting.

The witness confirmed to the HET that the statement which was purported to be his, and which was submitted to the 1973 inquest, was not in fact his evidence. He also reported that his recollection of the events and his location at the time Mr Burns was shot were different from the information contained in the other soldiers' statements.

Other new information from civilian witnesses was also uncovered by the HET.

Patricia Coyle, solicitor for the Burns family, said: "We are asking the High Court to review the fairness and reasonableness of the Attorney General's decision to refuse a fresh inquest in the face of compelling new evidence and legal arguments."

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