On Monday and Tuesday of next week, the House of Lords will hear the leading test case on the right to life and allegations of a shoot to kill policy adopted by British security forces in Ireland. Gervaise McKerr was shot and killed by the RUC along with Eugene Toman and Sean Burns on 11th November 1982. It is accepted that although all three men were unarmed, a total of 109 rounds were fired at the car they occupied. The outcome of this case will affect many similar cases.
In May 2001, after lengthy court proceedings brought together with a number of other families (Including that of Patrick Shanaghan, the Loughgall families and Pearse Jordan), the European Court of Human Rights found that the British Government were guilty of a breach of the families’ right to life. In particular, the court found that the investigation into the murder did not meet international standards of openness, fairness and independence and was a breach of Article 2 of the European Convention. The investigation had been conducted by the RUC themselves, and was reviewed in the Stalker and Sampson reports which were commissioned into the allegations of the shoot to kill policy, but were then withheld from the public domain and the families concerned.