High Court in Belfast

At the High Court in Belfast on Friday (19 December) the fathers of two IRA volunteers shot dead in controversial circumstances by undercover British soldiers more than thirteen years successfully judicially reviewed the Chief Constable for failure to provide the Coroner conducting the Inquest with a copy of the RUC Investigating Officer’s report and unredacted intelligence reports in connection with the shooting.

Dessie Grew (37) and Martin McCaughey (23) were shot dead at Lislasley, near Loughgall, on 9 October 1990. Their families claim that up to 200 rounds were fired as they were unarmed near a disused mushroom shed. Autopsy reports revealed at least 48 gunshot wounds on Grew and at least 12 gunshot wounds to McCaughey. The soldiers claimed that both men were shot as they emerged with rifles from the shed. It has been claimed that the rifles were later planted there by the soldiers.

No inquest has yet been held into their deaths. Papers were forwarded by the police to the office of the DPP and in April 1993, the DPP directed that no soldier should face criminal charges as a result of their actions. Despite retaining papers since October 1994, the Coroner has yet to hold the Inquest into the two men’s deaths.

A lawyer representing the families of both deceased had argued that the Chief Constable was under a duty to provide the Coroner with the Investigating Officer’s report to the DPP. Séamus Treacy QC argued that the Chief Constable was obliged by domestic, European and common law, and Mr Weatherup J rejected arguments on behalf of the Chief Constable that the reports were confidential, irrelevant, and likely to influence the candour with which police officers may conduct their investigations. He also rejected suggestions that to disclose the Investigating Officers report would create a ‘chilling effect’ on the public co-operating with the police’s inquiries.

Mr Weatherup J also ordered that the Chief Constable provide the Coroner with unredacted intelligence reports leading to the shooting of both men. It will then be for the Coroner to decide on their relevance and whether they should then be provided to the lawyers for the next of kin.

The court was also highly critical of the ‘inordinate delay’ which has prevented the delay in the Inquest proceedings and declared that the State has been in breach of their obligations to the next of kin. The judge awarded costs against the Chief Constable.

Fearghál Shiels of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, who represent both the Grew and McCaughey families said at court:

“There is no evidence that the RUC/PSNI at any stage took the initiative in progressing the Inquest, a process in which they are intimately involved, given their statutory obligation to provide documentation relating to their investigations to the Coroner. We welcome the decision of the High Court and this will have profound implications for the way in which this and other Inquests involving lethal force by the State will proceed in future, and with regard to how Inquests have been conducted in the past.”