Long-delayed legal action against the British government for not holding a public inquiry into the assassination of solicitor Pat Finucane is set to go ahead in June, a judge announced today.
The challenge mounted by the murdered lawyer’s widow has been provisionally listed for a three-day hearing at the High Court in Belfast.
Mr Finucane was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries at his home in the north of the city in February 1989.
His family have campaigned ever since for a public inquiry to establish the full scale of security force collusion in the murder.
In February 2019, the Supreme Court held that previous probes into the killing failed to meet Article 2 human rights standards.
The solicitor’s widow, Geraldine Finucane, initially issued proceedings in a bid to force the British government to act on the finding that no proper investigation had been carried out.
Although Secretary of State Brandon Lewis subsequently apologised for the delay in making a decision, he announced in November 2020 there would be no public inquiry at this stage.
He said that other police review processes needed to run their course.
An order was then made for the secretary of state to pay £7,500 damages to Mrs Finucane for the “excessive” delay in reaching his position.
Since then, she has been seeking a judicial review of the position adopted by Mr Lewis.
The current challenge centres on the legality of his decision to await the outcome of reviews by the PSNI’s Legacy Investigations Branch and the Police Ombudsman.
Mrs Finucane and her legal representatives allege that it breaches her Article 2 rights, and that the secretary of state is bound by the violation identified by the Supreme Court.
The case has been repeatedly put back amid efforts to recover and analyse all relevant archived documents from police facilities at Seapark in Co Antrim.
Lawyers for the government sought more time to carry out security assessments and get ready for the challenge.
The High Court was previously told the process to prepare evidence involves going through 1,000 pages of documents.
Counsel for Mrs Finucane has repeatedly expressed scepticism about the secretary of state’s motives.
It was claimed that he has been involved in an “outrageous” attempt to undermine the Supreme Court findings by trying to “run down the clock” in the challenge.
Following a series of adjournments, Mr Justice Scoffield today provisionally listed the case for a full hearing, beginning on June 15.
He scheduled a further review at the end of the month to confirm the new date.