Belfast Telegraph

Mum who lost family in IRA Shankill bombing loses legal challenge

By Alan Erwin

A pensioner who lost three members of her family in the IRA's Shankill Road bomb has failed in a High Court challenge over the issuing of comfort letters to 'on the runs' (OTRs).

Elizabeth Morrison's action against the Secretary of State and PSNI was dismissed because the Government was held to have confirmed that the OTRs scheme had been abolished.

Mr Justice Maguire told the court: "The challenge has been rendered academic."

Mrs Morrison's son, Michael, his partner, Evelyn Baird, and their seven-year-old daughter, Michelle, were among 10 people killed in the October 1993 attack in west Belfast.

The 81-year-old issued proceedings following a Press report that one of the bomb suspects who fled across the Irish border was among nearly 200 republicans who had received a secret letter saying that he was no longer wanted by police.

The OTRs scheme provoked outrage after Co Donegal man John Downey's trial on charges linked to the 1982 London Hyde Park bombing collapsed in February 2014.

He had been mistakenly sent a Government letter saying that he was not wanted for questioning by police.

The full scale of the administrative scheme involving other republican paramilitary suspects then emerged. Police were said to believe that 95 of the people who received letters could be linked to nearly 300 murders.

Mrs Morrison's case had been put on hold pending the outcome of separate judicial and parliamentary inquiries into the controversial process.

An independent review that was carried out by Lady Justice Hallett found significant systemic failures. However, it also concluded that the letters were not an amnesty and that the scheme was lawful.

Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee separately concluded that the letters had damaged the integrity of the criminal justice system.

In an attempt to judicially review the scheme, counsel for Mrs Morrison argued that a secretive process linked to nearly 300 murders was unlawful and represented a wilful abandonment of evidence-gathering opportunities.

However, ruling on the case, Mr Justice Maguire said that "those letters which had already been issued can no longer be treated, in the Government's view, as documents which can be relied upon to give comfort to their recipients."

The judge identified no sufficient reason to allow the case to continue.

Belfast Telegraph


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