Council of Europe - Committee of Ministers - 1398th meeting, 9-11 March 2021 (DH) - H46-38 McKerr group v. the United Kingdom (Application No. 28883/95)


The Deputies

1. recalling that these cases concern procedural violations of Article 2 of the Convention due to various shortcomings in the investigations into the death of the applicants’ next-of-kin in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s, either during security force operations or in circumstances giving rise to suspicion of collusion in their deaths by security force personnel;

As regards individual measures

2. reiterated their profound concern about the ongoing delays in the McKerr, Shanaghan and Kelly and Others cases due to systemic delays in inquest proceedings and Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (OPONI) investigations underlining the urgency of making progress in the necessary general measures;

3. decided, without prejudice to the Committee’s evaluation of the general measures, to close the examination of the McShane, Collette and Michael Hemsworth and Hugh Jordan cases by adopting Final Resolution CM/ResDH(2021)50;

4. decided to reopen their consideration of the individual measures in the case of Finucane in order to supervise the ongoing measures to ensure that they are adequate, sufficient and proceed in a timely manner; invited the authorities to clarify how the ongoing police and OPONI processes will proceed promptly and in line with Convention standards given the issues raised by both of those bodies in recent statements;

As regards general measures

5. noted with interest the authorities’ confirmation that it remains their intention to introduce legislation in the light of the Stormont House Agreement to address legacy issues as soon as possible; nevertheless reiterated their profound concern about the delay and continued lack of detail on that proposed legislation or any timetable for these proposals which has been under discussion for over six years;

6. underlining the importance of ensuring that any proposed legislation will enable, in the shortest possible timeframe, effective investigations into all outstanding cases in compliance with their obligations under the Convention; exhorted the authorities to take all measures to expedite the finalisation of this legislation and to provide full details to enable a comprehensive assessment to be made in time for the Committee’s next examination; recalled in the meantime, the vital role played by the inquest system and the OPONI in investigating cases;

7. with regard to the inquest system, noted with interest that despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, some progress is now being made, inquests are resuming and recovery planning is underway; strongly encouraged the authorities to step up their efforts to accelerate as far as possible to meet their target of the conclusion of all inquests within five years; invited the authorities to provide concrete information and explanations as to what steps are being taken to ensure that all of the relevant statutory bodies are complying with their disclosure obligations to allow inquests to proceed within the current planned timeframes and prevent unnecessary delays;

8. with regard to OPONI, in light of the ongoing chronic delays in its work as highlighted by the Ombudsmen themselves, invited the authorities to provide the following information:

a. the response to the five-yearly legislative review of its powers, in particular recommendation 15 regarding the power to compel police officers (serving and retired) as witnesses and suspects;

b. their assessment as to the impact that the revised memorandum of understanding on disclosure between the PSNI and the OPONI has had and whether it has facilitated the OPONI’s work;

c. what response has been given to the OPONI’s bid for additional staff;

9. with regard to police investigations, invited the authorities to provide further details about the use of other police services from across Great Britain to ensure independence:

a. in what circumstances and how often have these powers been used? and

b. how does this work in practice?

10. decided to resume consideration of the progress on all of the above issues at their 1419th meeting (December 2021) (DH), at the latest.