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Family of Jean Smyth `let down for decades'

Jean Smyth

THE family of a woman suspected of being shot dead by the military in west Belfast 45 years ago have been let down for decades by the criminal investigation system, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Maguire also held that the PSNI lacks the necessary independence to oversee further inquiries into the killing of Jean Smyth.

He granted her family a declaration that a proposed probe by the force's Legacy Investigations Branch would breach human rights requirements.

In a critique of investigations carried out at the time and subsequently by the Historical Enquiries Team, the judge further raised the possibility of perceived bias and a culture of preferential treatment for soldiers linked to civilian deaths.

The verdict came in a legal bid by relatives of Mrs Smyth to ensure a fully impartial new probe by an outside agency.

The 24-year-old mother of one was killed by a single shot to the head as she sat in a car on Glen Road in June 1972.

At the time the RUC informed her family that it was probably an IRA gunman. But National Archives records in 2014 suggested the British army's Military Reaction Force fired shots in the area and were allegedly involved in her killing, the court heard.

Mr Justice Maguire stressed that she was a wholly innocent person in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He also raised the possibility that it might have suited authorities to portray the case as another atrocity. Stressing that there were definitive answers about the facts of the case, he reached an overwhelming impression that the initial investigation lacked rigour.

Outside court a lawyer for Mrs Smyth's sister Margaret McQuillan, who brought the challenge, called for a speedy resolution in securing a new and legally compliant investigation.

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