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Whitters family deserve to have full information about plastic bullet death

As we know, the families of those killed during the Troubles face a range of obstacles in their search for the facts surrounding a loved one's death.

These can include the appalling absence of a thorough, contemporaneous investigation by the RUC, difficulties in securing witness or forensic evidence and the reluctance - to put it mildly - of the state to reveal crucial information, particularly in relation to killings carried out by members of the security forces.

It is extremely hard for families to know that the authorities are in possession of important details about the death of a relative that they simply refuse to disclose.

This issue has been brought into sharp focus by the case of 15-year-old Paul Whitters, who was killed by a plastic bullet fired by an RUC constable in Derry 38 years ago.

The teenager was struck on the back of the head on April 15, 1981, during serious rioting and died ten days later.

In 2007, the then Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan found that the use of the plastic bullet round was 'wrong and unjustifiable'.

She also found that the police officer fired the round at under the minimum permissable range, that no attempt was made to arrest the teenager and that the police account was inconsistent with that of seven eyewitnesses.

Last year it emerged that a file on the 15-year-old's death was stored at the National Archive at Kew with orders that it should not be opened until 2059.

It is understood the NIO ordered that the file remain closed for another 40 years on the grounds of national security.

Paul's mother, Helen Whitters, not unreasonably asks what the British government and the NIO has got to hide about her son's death?

She has appealed to secretary of state Karen Bradley to allow the family to view the full file.

Certainly, the family deserves to have their concerns addressed and should not be forced to wait four decades for information.

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