The full judicial review challenge into the refusal of British Prime Minister David Cameron to establish a full independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane commenced today (Monday 11 May) at the High Court in Belfast. The hearing before Mr Justice Stephens is listed to last for one week.
The case continues tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10.15am at the High Court in Belfast.
Following discussions at Weston Park the Irish and UK governments jointly appointed Judge Peter Cory to examine the murder of Patrick Finucane together with several other murders, with a view to recommending whether a public inquiry into some or all of those murders should be held. Both governments committed to implementing that recommendation which Judge Cory duly made. The UK government subsequently reneged on that commitment despite establishing inquiries into the deaths of Rosemary Nelson, Billy Wright and Robert Hamill, all of which have long since concluded.
Peter Madden of Madden & Finucane Solicitors who represents the Finucane family said this afternoon:
“As a result of the commitments given by successive British governments to implement the Weston Park Agreement, the Finucane family have had a clear legitimate expectation that a full independent public inquiry into Pat’s murder would be established. The Prime Minister’s refusal to deliver this inquiry, despite extensive negotiations between the family and their representatives with government officials in relation to a mutually acceptable model of inquiry represents a cynical breach of faith. The de Silva review, conducted behind closed doors without the proper authentication of documents and cross examination of witnesses is entirely inadequate and not capable of satisfying current human rights standards.
“Documents disclosed to the family since this challenge commenced reveal that senior civil servants consider that there is no justification for reneging on that promise made to the Finucane family into an event described in government papers as much worse than any event which emerged from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The object of these proceedings is to seek an order from the High Court compelling the government to establish what it promised to do some 14 years ago.”
i. Following the discussions at Weston Park the Irish government and the UK government jointly appointed Judge Peter Cory to examine, inter alia, the murder of Patrick Finucane with a view to recommending whether a public inquiry should be held. Both governments agreed that “In the event that a Public Inquiry is recommended in any case, the relevant Government will implement that recommendation.” (emphasis added)
ii. Judge Cory recommended that a public inquiry should be held in 5 of the 6 cases he examined, including the murder of Patrick Finucane;
iii. Judge Cory outlined the “basic requirements for a public inquiry” (at para 1.294);
iv. In each of the cases where Judge Cory recommended an inquiry should be held an inquiry was established, save for the case of Patrick Finucane;
v. Public inquiries were established by the UK Government into the deaths of Rosemary Nelson, Billy Wright and Robert Hamill and by the Irish Government into the deaths of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan;
vi. On 1 April 2004 the Secretary of State said “the Government stands by the commitment that we made at Weston Park” (Hansard Col 1756; Col 1761)
vii. The UK Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe’s comments in a letter to the Directorate General of Human Rights on 5 July 2005 that “…we are committed to an inquiry which will be tasked with uncovering the full facts of what happened and which will, in accordance with Judge Cory’s recommendations, be both independent and, to the extent possible, held in public.”
viii. The comments in the same letter that “…we are clear that the Finucane inquiry should and will have statutory powers to compel the attendance of witnesses and disclosure of evidence.”
ix. On 20 February 2006 the Secretary of State said “…I am committed to establishing an independent, statutory inquiry, with full powers to require the production of all the relevant documents and, most importantly, to compel witnesses to attend. That inquiry must also, as Judge Cory recommended, be “public to the extent possible.” (letter 20 February 2006);
x. On 22 March 2006 the Secretary of State said “…we are taking forward arrangements to establish an inquiry into the death.” (letter 22 March 2006);
xi. The Secretary of State’s comments in a letter dated 10 April 2006 that he considered the following “key features … essential to the Inquiry’s ability to get at the full facts and expose any wrongdoing…” (emphasis added)
· Independent chair who sees all the evidence;
· Full statutory powers to compel any evidence that could be compelled by a court;
· The inquiry should be “public to the extent possible”; and
· Its conclusions will be made public.
xii. Prior to the announcement of the impugned decision, Government officials engaged in discussions with the applicant’s representatives about the type of public inquiry that would be acceptable to her and her family: the sole object of both parties during this exercise was to find a mutually acceptable means of holding an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, the discussions eventually focussed on the possibility of establishing a “Baha Mousa style” inquiry, the applicant’s representatives indicated a willingness to accept such an inquiry and the discussions concluded with the officials undertaking to consult with ministers about the issue.
xiii. At no stage either during or after these discussions (before the announcement of the impugned decision) was there any suggestion or indication that the Government was considering a “review” or any process other than a public inquiry.
xiv. The Applicant and her family were invited to a meeting with the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at 10 Downing Street on 11 October 2011: the indication in advance of the meeting was that the Prime Minister would inform them personally of the Government’s decision and he expected the family to be satisfied with the announcement.
xv. The indication to the Irish Government in advance of the meeting on 11 October 2011 that the Finucane family would be happy with what was on offer.
xvi. There is no basis upon which the Prime Minister could ever have believed that the Applicant or her family would be happy or satisfied with anything other than a public inquiry, so that the indications to the Applicant and to the Irish Government were capable only of meaning that a public inquiry would be established.