Northern Ireland

Coroner rules Francis Bradley inquest should recommence

Ruling comes after lawyers for ex-British soldiers attempted to halt restart

Francis Bradley
Francis Bradley was shot dead by the SAS in 1986 (PA/PA)

A corner has ruled that an inquest into the SAS killing of a Co Derry man should resume after lawyers fora group of former British soldiers argued it should not be restarted.

Francis Bradley (20) was shot dead close to a weapons dump during a British army ambush near Toome in February 1986.

His name was later added to the IRA’s roll of honour.

An inquest, which opened in Derry last April, heard how Mr Bradley had told of being threatened by police before he was killed.

An original inquest was held in 1987, however, in 2010 then Attorney General John Larkin ordered a new one, which has been held up due to disclosure delays.

Under the British government’s contentious Legacy Act, inquests that are not at their findings stage by May 1 will be halted.

Mr Bradley’s inquest was set to resume in Coleraine on Monday, however, a barrister for former British ‘former military witnesses’ told coroner Peter Irvine the process was not ready to restart.

Richard Horwell KC, who is instructed by English based legal firm, Devonshires, raised questions about whether the inquest was ‘Article Two’ compliant and other legal matters.

Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to life and Article Two compliant inquests involve broader investigations of the circumstances of someone’s death.

A judicial review into whether Mr Bradley’s inquest is Article Two complaint will be heard later this month.

If a ruling in that case is delayed or passes to a higher court, the May 1 deadline for competition of the inquest could be missed.

During Monday’s hearing, Karen Quinlivan KC, who acts for the Bradley family, referred to other inquests involving Devonshires, including that of IRA men William Fleming and Danny Doherty, who were shot dead by the British army in Derry in 1984, and the Springhill inquest into the killing of five Catholics by British soldiers in west Belfast in 1972.

The lawyer highlighted that regardless of legal arguments around Article Two, both inquests, which are being heard before high court judges sitting as coroners, were proceeding and suggested a “complete red herring” had been raised.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Mr Irvine said he would not make a finding “in respect of Article Two” until he comes to the verdict and findings stage of the inquest.

Referring to the Springhill and Doherty and Fleming inquests he said both “have ruled on scope without determining the applicability of Article Two”.

“Neither has ruled on whether Article Two is engaged despite the deaths under investigation occurring prior to the 2nd of October, 1988,” he said.

“I accordingly reject the various submissions made by the representatives of former military witnesses that it is wrong in principle for this inquest to recommence when the Article Two issue is currently deferred.

“I am therefore satisfied this inquest is in a position to recommence and I refuse to either postpone or adjourn this inquest to a later date.”