NI Secretary Lewis to pay £7,500 damages for breaching human rights over Pat Finucane probe decision delay

Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State is to pay £7,500 damages to the widow of solicitor Pat Finucane for “excessive” delay in deciding not to hold a public inquiry into his murder, the High Court has been told.

Brandon Lewis has 28 days to make the payout for a breach of Geraldine Finucane’s human rights.

The agreed order concludes a legal challenge to the 21-month period it took the British Government to act on a finding that the lawyer’s killing has never been properly investigated.

Mr Finucane, 39, was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife and three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989.

His family have campaigned ever since for a public inquiry to establish the full scale of security force collusion in the assassination.

In February last year the Supreme Court held that previous probes into the murder did not meet human rights standards.

Mrs Finucane brought judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for failing to take a decision on the investigation required since that ruling.

She argued that the delay was unjustified and an unlawful violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The legal action led to Mr Lewis apologising for the delay in making a decision – some of which it was accepted could not be justified.

Ultimately, however, he announced last month that a public inquiry will not take place at this time.

The Secretary of State said that other review processes by the police needed to run their course.

His decision represented a devastating blow for the Finucane family, who branded it “astonishing, arrogant and cruel”, but vowed to fight on.

The legal challenge – limited to securing a decision from the Secretary of State – had been adjourned to await the announcement by Mr Lewis.

In court on Monday counsel for Mrs Finucane, Fiona Doherty QC, revealed that an order has now been agreed by both sides.

She said: “There is a draft declaration that the time taken by the Secretary of State to respond to the UK Supreme Court judgment of February 27, 2019 was: excessive; incompatible with the applicant’s Article 2 ECHR right to promptness and reasonable expedition in the investigation into her husband’s murder; and in breach of Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

“In addition… the respondent Secretary of State will pay to the applicant within 28 days the sum of £7,500 by way of damages for breaching Article 2 by reason of excessive delay.”

Paul McLaughlin QC, for the Secretary of State, confirmed: “We have no objection to the court making that order.”

Mr Justice McAlinden then agreed to make a declaration on the terms outlined.

Belfast Telegraph