The family of a mother-of-six shot dead by a British soldier more than 50 years ago can legally challenge his continued anonymity, a High Court judge ruled today.
Mr Justice Scoffield granted leave to seek a judicial review of a coroner’s decision not to lift the ban on identifying the ex-serviceman found responsible for the death of Kathleen Thompson in Derry.
Mrs Thompson was killed in the back garden of her home as troops withdrew from the Creggan area in November 1971.
In June last year an inquest held that the fatal shots fired by an unnamed individual referred to as Soldier D were unjustified.
The coroner said Mrs Thompson had been unarmed and was banging a bin lid or other object at the rear of her Rathlin Drive home to warn others of the army’s presence.
She rejected claims by Soldier D that he believed he was under fire and acted to protect himself and his colleagues.
The circumstances surrounding the shooting were also referred to the Public Prosecution Service, according to lawyers representing Mrs Thompson’s family.
Her son, William Thompson, launched legal action after the coroner declined to reconsider and rescind the anonymity order granted to Soldier D.
Counsel for Mr Thompson argued that he should now be named to ensure public confidence and scrutiny of the authorities, adhere to the rule of law and prevent any appearance of tolerating unlawful acts.
Karen Qunlivan KC submitted: “Given the findings that on the balance of probabilities Soldier D shot Kathleen Thompson in circumstances that were not justified, the balance must have now shifted against anonymity and in favour of identification.”
Resisting the challenge, Soldier D’s barrister stressed that he has not been criminally charged in connection with the killing.
Issues were also raised about the potential risk to his life if publicly named.
However, the judge held that Mr Thompson had established an arguable case and listed a full judicial review hearing later this year.
Outside court solicitor Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane said: “The family of Kathleen Thompson consider that the coroner ought to have reviewed the anonymity granted to Soldier D.
“This is in view of her clear findings that he was responsible for Kathleen’s death and the fact that the coroner felt obliged to refer his conduct to the Public Prosecution Service to consider whether he should be prosecuted for his role in causing Kathleen’s death.”
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