The British Government staged an elaborate sham process before announcing its predetermined decision to rule out a public inquiry into the killing of solicitor Pat Finucane, the High Court heard today.
Counsel for the murdered lawyer's widow claimed former Secretary of State Owen Patterson "went through the motions" of examining options in an effort to avoid legal action.
It was also alleged that the focus was on managing any political fall-out from Dublin and Washington over the refusal to order an inquiry.
Barry Macdonald QC said: "I make no apology for saying the Secretary of State (was) engaging in this sham process."
Mr Finucane was gunned down in front of his wife Geraldine and their three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989.
His murder has been surrounded by claims of security force collusion with the loyalist paramilitary killers.
Mrs Finucane is challenging Prime Minister David Cameron's decision in 2011 to rule out an inquiry into the shooting carried out by Ulster Freedom Fighters gunmen.
He instead commissioned QC Sir Desmond de Silva to review all documents relating to the case and produce a narrative of what happened.
In December 2012 Sir Desmond's report confirmed agents of the state were involved in the murder and that it should have been prevented.
However, it concluded there had been "no overarching state conspiracy".
The Finucane family rejected the findings as a whitewash.
During a four-day judicial review hearing in Belfast - where judgment was expected to be reserved - it was claimed that the killing was part of a British state engagement in terrorism through loyalist groupings.
The assassination was said to feature in a policy of infiltrating, manipulating and resourcing paramilitaries to carry out "extra-judicial executions".
According to Mrs Finucane's case the government unlawfully reneged on a commitment to hold a public inquiry.
Pledges to set up such a tribunal, based on the recommendation of retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, were made by a former Labour government in 2004 and reaffirmed in the following years, it was contended.
Counsel for the Secretary of State argued that he was legally entitled to review any commitment by a previous administration.
Issues about cost and speed had to be taken into account when a further decision on how to deal with the case was taken following a six-year passage of time.
Responding today, Mr Macdonald insisted that Mr Patterson had made it clear he was against any more public inquiries "full stop".
The barrister contended that "an elaborate process of consultation" was carried out following legal advice.
"He had committed himself in opposition to having no more costly, open-ended inquiries," Mr Macdonald said.
"They go through the motions."
Referring to internal correspondence with government officials, he continued: "That does tend to suggest that they have got a clear result in mind.
"The best way to achieve that, even before the process is underway, is for Owen (Patterson) to come forward with views the inquiry would be unnecessary or inappropriate."
Mr Justice Stephens also heard Liberal Democrats in the then coalition had expressed some support for an inquiry.
Full support for such a probe from Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, together with backing from Dublin and Washington, had to be taken into account.
"This is a clear indication that the outcome of the process was effectively predetermined," Mr Macdonald contended.
He claimed by November 2010 figures within the government were already discussing "how to handle the fallout when the decision is announced not to hold the inquiry".