IRA pair’s killings: files must be opened

THE House of Lords has ordered that all police intelligence files on the controversial security force killing of two IRA men be disclosed to allow full inquests into their deaths.

Yesterday’s ruling ends a five-year legal battle by Owen McCaughey and means the chief constable must provide the coroner who will hear the inquests with unedited intelligence reports into the shooting of his son Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew.

Mr McCaughey (23) and Mr Grew (37) were killed by undercover SAS soldiers in fields near Loughgall, Co Armagh in 1990.

Postmortem examinations revealed Mr Grew had been shot up to 48 times and Mr McCaughey, 12 times. The soldiers claimed the men had been armed but their families have dismissed it.

In 1993 the Director for Public Prosecutions ruled that none of the soldiers involved would face criminal charges and in 2005 the court of appeal ruled in favour of the chief constable withholding certain information from the coroner.

But the Lords’ judgement said: “It would so plainly frustrate the public interest in a full and effective investigation if the police were legally entitled, after giving the initial section 8 notice, to withhold relevant and perhaps crucial information coming to their notice thereafter.”

Meanwhile, the family of Pearse Jordan, shot dead on Belfast’s Falls Road in 1992, had gone to the House of Lords to bring about changes to the Northern Ireland Coroners Court which would allow juries to return verdicts of either lawful or unlawful killing.

Although the law lords upheld the court of appeal ruling that coroners courts should not be permitted to reach these verdicts, they said the jury hearing Mr Jordan’s inquest may make “relevant factual findings pertinent to the killing”.

Unarmed Mr Jordan was shot dead by an RUC officer after the stolen car he was driving was involved in a collision with a police vehicle. His inquest has been postponed on many occasions.

The judgement from the five law lords, made yesterday after a six-day hearing in January, referred to “the forthcoming, but lamentably delayed, inquest”.

In 2001 Mr Jordan’s father Hugh won a landmark case at the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that the government had breached its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights by not carrying out effective investigations into his death and those of nine other men.

Peter Madden from Madden and Finucane solicitors, which represents the Jordan and McCaughey families, welcomed the two decisions.

“A previous challenge on behalf of Hugh Jordan led to a change to the rules governing inquests and for the first time members of the RUC and the British army responsible for lethal force shootings are compellable witnesses at inquests and they will be cross-examined by lawyers for the families,” he said.

“Now the coroner can make factual findings pointing towards a conclusion that criminal or civil responsibility exists.”