The High Court today has ordered that files relating to the government’s alleged ‘shoot to kill’ policy should be released. Mr. Justice John Gillen said:
“If inquests are to maintain public confidence, put minds at rest and answer the questions of the families who are bereaved, it is vital to ensure that the interested parties/next of kin can participate in an informed, open and transparent fashion on an equal footing with all other parties throughout the various stages of the inquest including, at the outset of the process, the very scope of the inquest.
This can only be achieved where appropriate disclosure has been made of potentially relevant material.”
Several inquests into the deaths of both suspected IRA and INLA men have been delayed for over 30 years. While the government has always officially denied the existence of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy, family members have been pressing for decades to find out what really happened.
An investigation into what happened to the men was carried out by former Greater Manchester Police Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker and Sir Colin Sampson of the West Yorkshire Police, but the Stalker and Sampson reports have never been made public.
Today’s judgment quashed the police application that would have prevented Coroner John Leckey from handing over the (already redacted) reports to family members.
In agreeing with Mr. Lecky’s barrister, Justice Gillen said that:
“The coroner is constrained by the concepts of fairness, proportionality and transparency inherent in the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. I believe it is an entirely rational and proportionate decision for him to conclude that this means that he must permit the families of the deceased to see the entirety of the Stalker and Sampson reports – he having determined them ‘generally relevant’- whilst at the same time, recognising the need to protect sensitive material and the Article 2 rights (to life) under the Convention of police officers etc.”
Perhaps the availability of these reports will put to rest one of the long-running allegations of the Troubles? Or will the redacted ‘sensitive’ bits continue to obscure whether or not there really was a ‘shoot to kill’ policy?