Belfast Telegraph

Francis Rowntree inquest: Lawyer demands scrutiny for threat assessments

Threat assessments in cases where the identity of those giving evidence to an inquest may be withheld need to be properly scrutinised, a lawyer for Francis Rowntree's family has said.

Francis, 11, died two days after he was hit on the head by a rubber bullet while walking through the Divis Flats complex close to Belfast's Falls Road in April 1972 - one of the most turbulent years of the Troubles.

The case is mired in controversy, with disputed claims on whether the boy was hit directly or injured by a ricochet, and if the rubber bullet had been doctored to make it potentially cause more harm.

An application to withhold the identity of one of those allegedly involved on the grounds of threat to their family was discussed during a brief hearing of an inquest into the death in Belfast.

Fiona Doherty, barrister for the family, said: "It is a matter of considerable importance. The confidence that not just this family but the public can have in these threat assessments (has been) taken without any question.

"In this case we need to be able to question this further and the most appropriate way to do this is by bringing a witness along and allow us to ask questions."

An investigation by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team concluded Francis was an innocent bystander.

The hearing continues.

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