Northern Ireland news

'We won' says Pat Finucane's family as Supreme Court criticises murder investigation

Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, accompanied by her sons John (right) and Michael (second left) speaks with reporters outside the Supreme Court in central London, after the family lost a challenge over the decision not to hold a public inquiry into his killing, but won a declaration that an effective investigation into his death has not been carried out 

The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has lost a Supreme Court challenge over the decision not to hold a public inquiry into his killing, but won a declaration that an effective investigation into his death has not been carried out

Mr Finucane was killed in February 1989 by loyalists in an attack found to have involved collusion with the state.

The 39-year-old was shot 14 times while enjoying Sunday lunch at home with his family.

His widow Geraldine claimed the British government unlawfully "reneged" on a promise to hold a public inquiry into the killing, which was one of the most notorious of the Troubles.

Former prime minister David Cameron decided not to hold a public inquiry into the murder, but instead ordered an investigation by former UN war crimes prosecutor Sir Desmond de Silva QC.

Sir Desmond found "shocking" levels of state collusion involving the British Army, police and MI5 but ruled out an "overarching state conspiracy", prompting Mrs Finucane to describe it as a "whitewash".

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This morning, just over 30 years on from her husband's murder, the Supreme Court in London ruled that Mrs Finucane had been given "an unequivocal undertaking to hold a public inquiry into Mr Finucane's death", but that the "change of heart on the part of the government" was made in good faith.

Giving the judgment of the court, Lord Kerr found that the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the murder was a matter for the Government's "political judgment".

He also dismissed Mrs Finucane's contention that the decision was predetermined, stating: "There is simply no sustainable evidence that the process by which the decision was taken was a sham or that the outcome was predetermined."

But the court also ruled that the de Silva review was not compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which required the investigation to be provided with "the means where, if they can be, suspects are identified and, if possible, brought to account".

'We won'

Giving a statement outside the Supreme Court in London after the ruling, Geraldine Finucane said: "This is a historic moment. I stand before you today outside the United Kingdom Supreme Court with one simple message: we won."

She added: "The British government now knows that it cannot conceal the truth any longer. They have now been told this by the highest court in the land.

"It is time for the murder of Pat Finucane to be properly and publicly investigated in a public inquiry. Nothing less will suffice."

Pat Finucane was shot 14 times by loyalists at his home 30 years ago

In a statement the Finucane family thanked the Supreme Court justices "for their careful and respectful consideration of the case".

They welcomed the judgment that the De Silva review was not an effective investigation into the murder, and not compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The statement said: "Two main factors led to the court's conclusion. First, all investigations to date have lacked the power to subpoena witnesses and, secondly, no one has been identified as being responsible for the collusion found by previous investigations and admitted by the government, ie conduct of state agents who facilitated and furthered the murder.

"The decision was unanimous. That is the end of the court process.

Public inquiry call

"The only lawful decision open to the government that can rectify this state of affairs is a decision to hold a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act that has the statutory power to subpoena witnesses and order the disclosure of all relevant documentation.

"We look forward to working in such an inquiry to assist in the search for the truth which is now thirty years overdue".

Giving the judgment of the court, Lord Kerr found that the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the murder was a matter for the Government's "political judgment".

He also dismissed Mrs Finucane's contention that the decision was predetermined, stating: "There is simply no sustainable evidence that the process by which the decision was taken was a sham or that the outcome was predetermined."

Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, arrives at the Supreme Court in central London this morning along with the couples two sons John and Michael and daughter Katherine

Not complaint with human rights

But the court also ruled that the de Silva review was not compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which required the investigation to be provided with "the means where, if they can be, suspects are identified and, if possible, brought to account".

Lord Kerr declared that there has not been an effective investigation into Mr Finucane's murder, but added: "It does not follow that a public inquiry of the type which (Mrs Finucane) seeks must be ordered.

December 2013: Pat Finucane murder - UDA agent 'mentally unstable' according to British army files

"It is for the state to decide... what form of investigation, if indeed any is now feasible, is required in order to meet that requirement."

Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, accompanied by her sons John (right) and Michael (second left) speaks with reporters outside the Supreme Court in central London, after the family lost a challenge over the decision not to hold a public inquiry into his killing, but won a declaration that an effective investigation into his death has not been carried out  

The court said if Sir Desmond "had been able to compel witnesses; if he had been able to probe their accounts; if he had been given the chance to press those whose testimony might have led to identification of those involved in targeting Mr Finucane... one might have concluded that all means possible to identify those involved had been deployed”.

Lord Kerr said: “Absent those vital steps, the conclusion that an article 2 compliant inquiry into Mr Finucane’s death has not yet taken place is inescapable.”

He concluded: “I would therefore make a declaration that there has not been an article 2-compliant inquiry into the death of Patrick Finucane."

July 2018: Pat Finucane's family criticise Whitehall for keeping murder files secret

In February 2017, Mrs Finucane lost at the Court of Appeal in Belfast when three judges dismissed her case that Mr Cameron's decision to reject a public inquiry was unlawful.

This morning, just over 30 years on from her husband's murder, the Supreme Court in London ruled against a public inquiry but further ruled that an effective investigation into his death has not been carried out.

At a hearing in June, Barry Macdonald QC said Mr Finucane was a victim of "a policy of systemic extra-judicial execution that was as cynical and sinister as can be imagined".

'State-sponsored terrorism'

He told a panel of five justices, including the court's president Lady Hale, that "loyalist terrorist organisations were infiltrated, resourced and manipulated in order to murder individuals identified by the army and the police as suitable for assassination".

Mr Macdonald added: "In other words, state-sponsored terrorism."

John Finucane, lawyer Peter Madden, Geraldine Finucane, Michael Finucane and Dermot Finucane outside Government Buildings in Dublin, following their meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week.

He said this policy was "widened" to include lawyers such as Mr Finucane, who represented a number of high-profile republicans.

Mr Macdonald concluded: "The police, the army and the security service MI5 are all implicated in a policy that entailed identifying lawyers with their clients and legitimising them as targets for assassination."

Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, told the Supreme Court that the lower courts which considered the case had correctly concluded that the decision-making process relating to the public inquiry was a "thorough, genuine and lawful" one.

At an event in Belfast to mark the 30th anniversary of Mr Finucane's murder earlier this month, his son John said his father had been killed to silence other human rights lawyers.

He said: "It was a deliberate decision to kill him, to silence other lawyers and prevent them from doing that type of work.

"What we see now is a generation coming through with lawyers, people wanting their human rights.

"I think that is very much a legacy of Pat Finucane and what he stands for and represents.

Geraldine Finucane with her family and Gerry Adams arriving for the 'Pat Finucane 30th Anniversary, A Community Reflects' event at St Mary's University College Belfast which was organised by Feile an Phobail. Picture by Ann McManus

"That gives me enormous pride. While they did silence him, they could not have made a bigger mess of it if they tried.

"The name reverberates around the world and an enormous amount of credit for that is due to my mother."

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