Belfast Telegraph

Inquest into Raymond McCord Jnr murder could be years away, court hears

Raymond McCord Jnr was murdered by the UVF in 1997.
Raymond McCord Jnr was murdered by the UVF in 1997.

By Alan Erwin

An inquest into a loyalist paramilitary murder carried out more than two decades ago could be years away, the Court of Appeal has heard.

On Friday, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan stressed the need for prompt investigations as he backed the victim's father in his ongoing legal fight to secure a tribunal.

Raymond McCord was appealing a decision to put his challenge on hold.

His 22-year-old son, Raymond Jnr, was beaten to death before his body was dumped at a quarry outside north Belfast in November 1997.

The killing was carried out by an Ulster Volunteer Force gang based in the Mount Vernon area of the city.

Despite a series of preliminary hearings, an inquest has yet to get underway.

Delays have been linked to investigations into paramilitary crime attributed to the UVF unit who operated in the Mount Vernon estate.

Lawyers for the victim's father have issued High Court proceedings against the PSNI, the Coroner's Service and the Department of Justice.

They are seeking a declaration that his human rights have been breached.

Last year the challenge was put on hold due to other legacy-related cases.

But allowing Mr McCord to appeal against that decision, Sir Declan said there was an obligation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights for prompt investigations.

An inquest into the death of Raymond McCord Jnr more than 20 years ago has not taken place, and no coroner has been allocated to hear it, he pointed out.

The Lord Chief Justice said: "It is impossible to estimate how many years it might take before the inquest might proceed, as was accepted by the parties at the hearing."

He confirmed there is now no impediment to the hearing of the legal challenge and related claim for damages.

Outside court Mr McCord's solicitor, Ciaran O'Hare of McIvor Farrell, described the ruling as "groundbreaking".

"This is a removal of the road block many victims have faced up to this point from pursuing cases in relation to their Article 2 human rights," he said.

"Now they are able to seek declarations and damages, which puts the State under pressure for an inquest.

"Victims can now start to see justice, whereas before they simply would have been stymied."

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