Report from Court of Appeal where Madden & Finucane represent the families. We are back in Court on 15 January 2016.
The families of two IRA men shot dead by the SAS were denied access to inquest information that one of the soldiers also opened fire in another four killings, a court heard.
Judges were further told an officer commanding the unit involved in the deaths of Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew was linked to an “extensive number” of other lethal force incidents.
Details emerged as an appeal against a failed legal bid to have the inquest verdicts quashed was put on hold.
McCaughey and Grew died when an SAS unit opened fire at farm buildings near Loughgall, Co Armagh in October 1990.
Although both men were armed, neither fired any shots, provoking claims that soldiers could have arrested them.
But in May 2012, an inquest jury held the soldiers had used reasonable force.
Lawyers for McCaughey’s sister, Sally Gribben, are continuing to challenge the ruling. They claim the inquest did not comply with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, with two grounds advanced:
The failure to disclose to next-of-kin the SAS unit members’ roles in other lethal force incidents, and the consequent inability to deploy that information at the inquest.
The failure to secure the re-attendance of Soldier A to answer questions about suspected links to the fatal shooting of Francis Bradley near Toomebridge in 1986.
Earlier this year, a High Court judge dismissed Ms Gribben’s application for a judicial review. He rejected claims that the tribunal was rendered ineffective by the non-disclosure of soldiers’ links to other lethal force incidents.
Ms Gribben’s legal team are now appealing the verdict in a further attempt to secure a fresh inquest. They argue that disclosing details of the SAS members’ links was central to establishing whether an alleged shoot-to-kill policy was in operation.
Had details been known to the next-of-kin at the inquest, an application would have been made to cross-examine the soldiers, according to their case.
At the Court of Appeal yesterday, Karen Quinlivan QC, for Ms Gribben, said an SAS man, Soldier G, fired shots in two incidents where four men died.
Alexander Patterson, a 31-year-old INLA member, was killed by the SAS in Strabane, Co Tyrone in November 1990. And IRA men Lawrence McNally (38), Peter Ryan (37) and Tony Doris (21) were ambushed and shot dead by soldiers in Coagh, Co Tyrone, in 1991.
Details of the connections were obtained through cross-checking Ministry of Defence records and personnel files.
Ms Quinlivan told the three appeal judges the information was not known to the next-of-kin at the time of the inquest.
She said: “Soldier G was involved in the deaths of Doris, McNally and Ryan, and he also discharged his weapon in the shooting of Mr Patterson.”
Legal papers in the case claim another of the SAS men, Soldier K, was involved in a command role in eight lethal force incidents, resulting in 15 deaths, between 1984-1990.
That knowledge, Ms Gribben’s lawyers insisted, was also not imparted to the next-of-kin during the original inquest.
“In relation to Soldier K, he’s involved in an extensive number [of incidents], in some of which he was the officer commanding of the SAS,” Ms Quinlivan told the court.
The appeal hearing was adjourned to allow further legal arguments on whether the judges should examine the material that the coroner assessed on the disclosure issue.
Listing the case for a further hearing next month, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan stressed it would be given priority if necessary.
He emphasised: “This appeal needs to get on.”