JUDGMENT has been reserved in a legal challenge mounted by the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
The High Court heard that Brandon Lewis cannot be held legally “culpable” for not establishing a public inquiry.
Counsel for the secretary of state argued that he is entitled to await the outcome of other police reviews which go towards investigative obligations the government is under.
Geraldine Finucane is seeking to judicially review Mr Lewis for deciding against ordering a public inquiry into events surrounding the killing in February 1989, claiming it breached her human rights.
Mr Finucane was shot dead by loyalist paramilitary gunmen in front of his wife and three children at their home in north Belfast.
His family have campaigned for a public inquiry to establish the full scale of security force collusion in the murder.
In February 2019 the UK’s Supreme Court held that previous probes failed to meet standards required by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Since then, Mrs Finucane has been locked in further legal battles against the British Government’s response to that ruling.
In November 2020 the secretary of State announced there would not be a public inquiry at this stage because he wanted other processes by the PSNI’s Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) and the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI) to run their course.
He has already been ordered to pay £7,500 damages to Mrs Finucane for the excessive delay in reaching that position.
In the current challenge the widow’s lawyers claim Mr Lewis’ decision was irrational and unlawful.
The LIB has now finished its work, while the Ombudsman’s review will not be completed until at least 2025, the court heard.
It was contended that only a public inquiry into the murder will uncover the true extent of a state-operated policy of “extrajudicial executions”.
On day two of the case Paul McLaughlin QC, for the secretary of state, acknowledged the Supreme Court had clearly found a breach of Article 2 on the basis that previous investigations lacked capacity to “unravel the various stands of involvement of the state”.
He insisted there was no suggestion of Mr Lewis not accepting those findings or refusing to ever set up a public inquiry after the other investigations are finalised.
Following closing arguments Mr Justice Scoffield pledged: “I will give judgment whenever I can.”