Northern Ireland

British government legal action over Sean Brown inquest relates to sensitive information disclosure

Legal challenge relates to Public Interest Immunity process during tribunal, court told

C2414503 Sean Brown
GAA official Sean Brown, who was murdered in 1997.

The UK Government is taking legal action over the disclosure of sensitive information at the inquest into the murder of GAA official Sean Brown, the High Court has heard.

Counsel for the Secretary of State confirmed the challenge centres on how the coroner dealt with a Public Interest Immunity (PII) process during the tribunal examining Sean Brown’s killing.

Mr Brown, 61, was abducted by a LVF gang as he locked the gates at Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAA Club in Co Derry in May 1997. The father of six was shot dead in Randalstown.

In March this year the coroner, Mr Justice Kinney, declared that the inquest could not continue because of material being excluded or withheld on national security grounds.

Before the hearing was halted it emerged that state agents were among more than 25 people linked by intelligence to the murder.

The coroner wrote to the Northern Ireland Secretary asking him to establish a public inquiry and setting a four-week deadline for taking a decision.

But earlier this month the government announced it was seeking a judicial review in relation to the inquest.

At the High Court on Tuesday counsel for the Secretary of State, Tony McGleenan KC, confirmed the case is unconnected to the call for a public inquiry.

With the Secretary of State yet to respond to the request for a public inquiry, the Brown family’s barrister revealed that a separate legal challenge is being prepared over the failure to take a decision within the four-week timeframe.

Desmond Fahy KC also urged the judge to ensure there is no delay in dealing with the Government’s legal action.

Following submissions, Mr Justice Humphreys indicated that he will examine all relevant transcripts, including open and closed material, before giving an initial ruling on the merits of the challenge.

He pledged: “There have been many years of waiting for finality and answers on behalf of the Brown family, therefore I don’t intend to add in any way to that delay in relation to this case.”