Judges urged not to let state draw a line under Finucane murder

Posted By: November 25, 2016

Irish News (Belfast). Friday, November 25, 2016

 Pat Finucane was murdered at his home in north Belfast in 1989
THE judiciary must refuse to let government draw a line under an alleged abuse of power in the assassination of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.

Counsel for the murdered lawyer’s widow also insisted no-one in authority has been held accountable for “abominations” surrounding the killing.

The claims were made as the judgment was reserved in Geraldine Finucane’s bid to overturn a finding that former prime minister David Cameron acted lawfully in refusing to hold a public inquiry into her husband’s death.

Mr. Finucane was gunned down by loyalist paramilitaries at his north Belfast home in February 1989. His family has campaigned for a full examination of alleged security force collusion with the killers.

In 2011 Mr. Cameron decided against ordering a public inquiry, and instead commissioned Sir Desmond de Silva QC to review all documents relating to the case and produce a narrative of what happened.

Sir Desmond’s report confirmed agents of the state were involved in the murder and that it should have been prevented.

He also linked a military intelligence unit, the FRU, because one of its agents was involved in selecting targets.

However, the report concluded there had been no overarching state conspiracy.

The Finucane family rejected the findings as a whitewash and accused the government of unlawfully reneging on previous commitments.

Pledges to set up such a tribunal, based on the recommendation of retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, were made by a former Labour government in 2004 and reaffirmed in the following years, it was contended.

Last year a High Court judge held that Mrs. Finucane had received a clear and unambiguous promise of an inquiry.

But he backed the Government’s case that other public interest issues, including political developments in Northern Ireland and the potential financial pressures of a costly inquiry, were enough to frustrate her expectation.

Despite throwing out Mrs. Finucane’s legal bid to force the authorities to publicly examine her husband’s killing, the judge also said the State has not fully met its human rights obligation to investigate.

During a three-day appeal hearing counsel for the government argued that a “shifting public interest kaleidoscope” of costs and the passage of time meant Mr. Cameron was legally entitled to reconsider a previous administration’s commitments to a public inquiry.

But Barry Macdonald QC, for Mrs. Finucane, claimed only Ken Barrett, the loyalist gunman and “UDA puppet” convicted of the killing, has been held responsible.

Separate examinations carried out by former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens, Judge Cory and Sir Desmond of circumstances surrounding the killing all found “things went badly wrong”, the court heard.

No investigation compliant with human rights standards and capable of identifying and punishing those responsible for the murder has been held, according to the barrister.

And he urged the three appeal judges: “I opened this case on the basis that it was about an abuse of power by the executive branch of the State, and about whether the judicial branch would permit the government to draw a line under that abuse of power in the way the government wants it to.

“It’s our submission that the court ought not to accede to that request.”

Following submissions Lord Justice Gillen pledged to deliver judgment in the appeal as soon as possible.