OPONI wants more history, less inquiry…

Over at The Detail, Barry McCafferty is reporting that the Police Ombudsman’s office is now saying that it can no longer investigate the killings of anyone shot dead by a police officer during the Troubles.

“A test case in the Supreme Court (House of Lords) earlier this year has confirmed to us that we cannot investigate deaths from the Troubles which have previously been investigated unless there is new evidence.”

The Ombudsman spokesman said it would now ask government to introduce new legislation to allow it to resume investigating police killings.

“Now that there appears to be legal clarity on the issue we will move to ask government if it wants to change this legislation.

“We have almost 50 such deaths referred to us by the HET, which we may not be able to investigate.

“We have also begun the process of contacting the families of those people killed to inform them of the issue.”

What that legal advice was isn’t immediately clear (or the basis on which it was sought). Nor does it make clear why a referral by the HET isn’t, by implication, a signal that fresh evidence is available (otherwise, why would the HET refer it to OPONI).

Until they clarify it, the OPONI statement appears to reference the judgement McCaughey & Quinn v UK which has probably been central to the current focus on coroner’s inquiries, such as the recent announcement regarding deaths in Ballymurphy and the surrounding area in the immediate aftermath of the introduction of internment in 1971. In short, the Supreme Court ruling confirmed an earlier judgement (McKerr v UK, 2004) concerning the retrospective application of the Human Rights Act 1998, with reference to Article 2 of ECHR. Since the inquests into the deaths of Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew had not concluded, the provisions of the Act were considered to apply. In that context, the re-opening of coroners inquiries, for whatever reason, now requires them to be compliant with the Human Rights Act 1998 and Article 2 of ECHR. That appears to be one interpretation of the McCaughey v UK judgement.

It’s not that OPONI’s statement isn’t consistent with that judgement in it’s reference to completed investigations (presuming this is what it refers to). But how it is interpreting, or even disregarding, the evidential gathering in the HETs work seems to be a case of more history, less inquiry which does need an public explanation.

For Pete’s take on this see here.

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  • John Ó Néill

    In case we end up with two discussions on the same topic – I’ve closed the comments on here and people can join in the conversation on Pete’s thread.