Inquest delay 'a breach of rights'
The delayed hearing of an inquest into the death of the first man killed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland is a breach of his family's human rights, a lawyer has claimed.
It has taken more than a year and a half to decide which details surrounding Neil McConville's shooting should be shielded from scrutiny, the Belfast hearing was told by counsel for relatives.
Family members are pressing for speedy disclosure of information after the 21-year-old was shot three times as he tried to evade police in a car in Co Antrim in 2003.
A police barrister said the force's resources were not "limitless" as there were several legal cases into disputed deaths under way.
Karen Quinlivan, lawyer for the dead man's relatives, said: "The onus is on the public authorities to perform their functions, it ought not to be up to the families to write in or to progress matters. We do say that the ongoing prejudice is in fact a breach of their article 2 rights (Human Rights Act) and in fact a continuing breach."
Mr McConville was trying to avoid officers in a car in Ballinderry Upper in April 2003. Former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has found that the officer who shot him in the chest was justified in opening fire as he feared the life of a colleague was in danger. The officer in question was lying in front of the car after being knocked down.
The legal dispute centres around the period between March last year, when the last preliminary hearing was held, and now. It will take police until October to decide which information they feel should be omitted from official documents.
Family members believe more progress should have been made. Ms Quinlivan told coroner Suzanne Anderson: "There is no explanation why one and a half years after the PI (preliminary inquiry) they have not even started the redaction process or taken the trouble to go to your office to see the documents."
Stephen Ritchie, who represents the police, said: "The resources of the police are not limitless. There are a number of these cases ongoing at the minute and the unit that deals with questions of disclosure is under a lot of pressure. From March 2009 to date is a lengthy period of time but this process is ongoing."
Northern Ireland's police service changed from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the PSNI in November 2001 as part of sweeping reforms to policing under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.