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'We have won': Finucane family welcomes ruling that murder probe was 'not effective' but loses challenge over public inquiry

The Supreme Court found the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the murder was a matter for the Government’s “political judgment”

Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, accompanied by her sons John (right) and Michael (left) speaks with reporters outside the Supreme Court in central London
Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, accompanied by her sons John (right) and Michael (left) speaks with reporters outside the Supreme Court in central London
Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, arrives at the Supreme Court in central London. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has described as 'a victory' the Supreme Court ruling that the investigation into his death was not effective.

Mr Finucane was killed in February 1989 by loyalists in an attack found to have involved collusion with the state.

The family lost their challenge over the decision not to hold a public inquiry into his killing but won a declaration that an effective investigation into his death has not been carried out.

The 39-year-old was shot 14 times while enjoying Sunday lunch at home with his family.

His widow Geraldine had claimed the Government unlawfully "reneged" on a promise to hold a public inquiry into the killing, which was one of the most notorious of the Troubles.

Speaking after the ruling, Mrs Finucane said this was "a historic moment".

"We have had to overcome obstacles the likes of which no other family has faced. And today we face the world with one simple message - We have won".

The British Government now knows that it cannot conceal the truth any longer. They have now been told this by the highest court in the land. Geraldine Finucane

She added: "The Supreme Court has given its judgment on the actions of the British Government. They have been found wanting.

"They have been found in breach of the most fundamental obligation of all, to protect the right to life."

Pat Finucane was shot dead in front of his family in February 1989 (PA)
Pat Finucane was shot dead in front of his family in February 1989 (PA)
Pat Finucane was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1989
Geraldine Finucane fought to overturn ex-PM David Cameron's decision

She added: “It is time for the murder of Pat Finucane to be properly and publicly investigated in a public inquiry. Nothing less will suffice.”

Mr Finucane’s son John said: “Today is a very significant victory along the road of our campaign for truth and justice.”

His brother Michael added: “This is no longer just a campaign of moral force. This is now a campaign that has the force of law.

Funeral of lawyer Pat Finucane, murdered by loyalists. 1989. Pacemaker
Funeral of lawyer Pat Finucane, murdered by loyalists. 1989. Pacemaker

“It is not an option for the Government to ignore our call for a public inquiry anymore. It should never have been an option, but it is one that they chose to push to its absolute limit.

“We have reached the limit.”

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald also welcomed the ruling and called for a full public inquiry in the Dáil today.

“Today’s judgement is a watershed moment in the campaign for access to truth and justice about collusion," she said.

“This morning, the British Supreme Court has ruled that previous inquiries into Pat’s murder ‘did not have the capability to establish salient facts into Pat’s death’.

“As such, it has found that an inquiry, compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, into Pat’s murder has not been held and that none of the previous inquiries has satisfied Article 2 obligations.

“The British government should now immediately fulfil its obligation to hold a public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.”

Former prime minister David Cameron had decided not to hold a public inquiry into the murder, but instead ordered an investigation by former UN war crimes prosecutor Sir Desmond de Silva QC.

Sir Desmond found "shocking" levels of state collusion involving the Army, police and MI5 but ruled out an "overarching state conspiracy", prompting Mrs Finucane to describe it as a "whitewash".

In February 2017, Mrs Finucane lost at the Court of Appeal in Belfast when three judges dismissed her case that Mr Cameron's decision to reject a public inquiry was unlawful.

It is for the state to decide... what form of investigation, if indeed any is now feasible, is required in order to meet that requirement. Lord Kerr

In London today, just over 30 years on from her husband's murder, the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs Finucane had been given "an unequivocal undertaking to hold a public inquiry into Mr Finucane's death", but that the "change of heart on the part of the government" was made in good faith.

Giving the judgment of the court, Lord Kerr found that the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the murder was a matter for the Government's "political judgment".

He also dismissed Mrs Finucane's contention that the decision was predetermined, stating: "There is simply no sustainable evidence that the process by which the decision was taken was a sham or that the outcome was predetermined."

But the court also ruled that the de Silva review was not compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which required the investigation to be provided with "the means where, if they can be, suspects are identified and, if possible, brought to account".

Lord Kerr declared that there has not been an effective investigation into Mr Finucane's murder, but added: "It does not follow that a public inquiry of the type which (Mrs Finucane) seeks must be ordered."

At a hearing in June, Barry Macdonald QC said Mr Finucane was a victim of "a policy of systemic extra-judicial execution that was as cynical and sinister as can be imagined".

He told the Supreme Court that "loyalist terrorist organisations were infiltrated, resourced and manipulated in order to murder individuals identified by the army and the police as suitable for assassination".

Mr Macdonald said this policy was "widened" to include lawyers such as Mr Finucane, who represented a number of high-profile republicans.

He concluded: "The police, the army and the security service, MI5, are all implicated in a policy that entailed identifying lawyers with their clients and legitimising them as targets for assassination."

He added: "In other words, state-sponsored terrorism."

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