Adviser fails to give inquest info

Report from today’s proceedings at Belfast Coroners Court where Madden & Finucane represent the families of Danny Doherty and William Fleming.

A legal adviser to undercover soldiers involved in shooting dead two suspected IRA men has failed to give information, a lawyer told an inquest.

Daniel Doherty, 23, and William Fleming, 19, were killed in the grounds of Gransha Hospital in Londonderry in December 1984.

It has been alleged the pair, who were from the city, were planning to attack an off-duty member of the Ulster Defence Regiment when soldiers believed to be from the SAS ambushed them, firing almost 60 shots.

A statement is still outstanding from an official who provided legal guidance to troops as lawyers prepare for a full inquest, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) lawyer told a coroner at a Belfast preliminary hearing.

Brenda Campbell, barrister for the victims’ families, said: “This issue has been going on for the best part of 18 months, it needs to be addressed, I would urge that you fix a date and that is communicated to the witness.”

MoD lawyer Kevin Rooney said he hoped the matter would be resolved soon but admitted he had thought it would have been dealt with earlier. Issues such as holidays had affected the potential witness’s availability to draft a statement.

Coroner Jim Kitson said: “I will give him another four weeks and unless there is good reason we will consider other options.”

The full inquest is due to be heard in November and will last up to four weeks, barrister for the coroner Fiona Doherty said.

Ms Campbell said the families were pressing for it to be held in Derry but counsel for the Army and police preferred Belfast for security reasons.

The coroner has yet to rule on the location or whether a jury will be called.

The redaction of sensitive material from public view could be delayed by the purdah period ahead of a general election when Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will not be able to make contentious decisions but should be resolved shortly after the poll, Ms Doherty said.

An inquest was held two years after the shootings but in 2010 Northern Ireland attorney general John Larkin QC ordered another hearing after finding that police documents had been withheld from the coroner at the time.

The Belfast Telegraph