Resource issues should not give the State "impunity" from ensuring the Police Ombudsman can fulfil a legal duty to investigate controversial Troubles killings, the High Court heard today.
Lawyers for the widow of one of three IRA men shot dead by the SAS claimed a systemic lack of funding for the watchdog amounted to a breach of her human rights.
Gerard Harte, his brother Martin, and Brian Mullan died in an ambush at Drumnakilly, Co Tyrone in 1988.
The number of shots fired sparked claims they were victims of a shoot-to-kill policy.
Roisin Harte was reportedly told in 2018 that a complaint relating to her husband's death had not been prioritised for investigation by the Ombudsman due to a lack of resources. She is now taking legal action over an alleged failure to carry out a proper probe into the wider circumstances because of those budget constraints.
Seeking to judicially review the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman's Office, Hugh Southey QC instructed by Phoenix Law argued that funding problems stretch back to 2012.
He contended that there was an arguable violation of his client's Article 2 rights under European Law.
"There is simply no authority that says the obligation to investigate speedily or the obligation to ensure independence are in any way qualified by resources," Mr Southey said.
"If the State was able to say we don't have the money it would allow, potentially, for impunity."
Philip McAteer, for the Department, raised the possibility of imminent developments.
With an updated business case awaited from the Ombudsman, the court heard the latest draft budget also includes additional ring-fenced allocation for "legacy pressures in general".
Mr McAteer insisted: "It isn't the case the Department is sitting on money and doing nothing.
"There are competing pressures for the money... and there is now an additional budget which, if it proceeds to final budget, would (give the Ombudsman) potentially up to £1.7m to deliver historical investigations."
Following submissions Mr Justice McFarland reserved judgment on whether to grant leave to apply for judicial review.