Northern Ireland

Bother brands PSNI and SoS failed legal challenge ‘waste of resources’

Jon Boutcher and Chris Heaton Harris fail in legal bid to block inquest info release

Eugene Thompson (Brother of Paul Thompson  -Centre) and Bridge Wright  (Cousin of Paul Thompson -centre) pictured with Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice, Gemma McKeown Solicitor (right) with Family and Friends during a inquest hearing for Paul Thomson at Belfast High Court on Monday,
Paul Thompson Inquest Eugene Thompson with supporters outside Belfast High Court on Monday, PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

The brother of Catholic man killed by loyalists has branded a failed legal challenge by the PSNI chief constable and Secretary of State to stop a coroner providing him with information about the killing a “total waste of resources”.

Eugene Thompson was speaking after a High Court judge dismissed the judicial review application on Monday.

The legal action was launched over a decision by a corner to provide a summary of security force intelligence about the sectarian murder of Paul ‘Topper’ Thompson in April 1994.

The 25-year-old was gunned down after UDA members cut a hole in a peace line fence close to a British army base to enter a nationalist area.

Speaking outside court, Mr Thompson described it as a “stressful and very difficult time.”

“There was absolutely no need for this challenge to have been brought.

“It was a total waste of resources and has unnecessarily delayed getting on with the inquest.”

Alan Lewis -         25-3-2024
Murder victim Paul Thompson who was killed by the UDA in 1994. 
Today, (Mon 25-3-2024), at Befast High Court a judge ruled in favour of the family and against the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the PSNI Chief Constable who lost their challenge to a Coroner’s ruling regarding evidence at Mr Thompson’s ongoing inquest.
Following the ruling the campaign group Relatives for Justice released the following statement :
“ Paul Thompson Inquest: Justice Humphreys rules PSNI & SOS have no grounds for challenging coroner and dismisses their applications to prevent a gisting of the file.
Coroner was correct.
State cannot just hoist the flag of NCND and expect the court to salute it.
NCND, whilst entirely lawful to use, in essence also has no application in law and therefore the argument that coroner in seeking to provide a gist of file 7 had erred in law in making that decision, is wrong.
Indeed gisting has been frequently used in such cases, which has been helping to coroners and the court. 
Coroner's grounds in making her decision to gist the file were “unimpeachable".
This ruling strengthens the position of coroners to ensure carefully balanced gisting is right once they’ve made the decision.”
Murder victim Paul Thompson (Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast/Photopress Belfast)

Mr Thompson hopes his brother’s inquest can now resume.

“This ruling should help other families,” he said.

“Hopefully, we can now move swiftly in concluding Paul’s inquest.”

Solicitor Gemma McKeown, from the Committee on the Administration of Justice, said the ruling “upholds the vital and independent role of the coroner in carrying out the balancing exercise of the competing public interests of national security and open justice.

“We now look forward to receiving the gist and getting this delayed inquest back on track so that it can conclude before May 1.”

Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice said the ruling “is of major significance”.

“Conscious that this case was about the gisting of an intelligence file as opposed to the file itself being made fully available, it nevertheless has far wider, indeed positive, benefits for open justice and not least for families involved in legacy cases,” he said.