Northern Ireland

Paul Thompson inquest: PSNI chief and SoS to take legal action over inquest into murder of Catholic man

Coroner’s plan to reveal gist of disclosure now put on hold

Family hand out picture of Liam Paul Thompson as an inquest take place into his death in 1994.
Paul 'Topper' Thompson

The PSNI chief constable and secretary of state (SoS) have launched legal action over a decision by a corner to provide a summary of security force intelligence about the sectarian murder of a Catholic man almost 30 years ago.

The unexpected development came during an inquest into the murder of Paul ‘Topper’ Thompson by the UDA Springfield Park in west Belfast 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.

Hours earlier, a neighbour reported a hole in the fence at Springfield Park to the RUC and NIO.

However, authorities failed to act.

Concerns have already been raised about a PSNI failure to provide disclosure in at the inquest, which was listed to resume last month.

An inquest opened in 1995 and was adjourned until last April when the first evidence was heard.

All inquests must be at their findings stage by May 1 or they will be halted under the British government’s controversial Legacy Act.

Concerns have previously been raised that the PSNI and others are failing to disclose relevant information to ‘run down the clock’.

A Public Interest Immunity (PII) process was recently completed in Mr Thompson’s inquest.

PII certificates are used by state agencies to withhold information they do not want the public to see.

Coroner Louisa Fee was due to provide a ‘gist’, or a summary, of some of the sensitive material to all parties on Monday.

It is understood that while redactions imposed on six folders were accepted by the coroner, she took the view that she could provide a ‘gist’ in relation to a seventh folder.

Kenova package
PSNI chief constable Jon Boutcher (Mal McCann)

However, it emerged on Monday that both the PSNI chief constable Jon Boutcher and SoS Chris Heaton-Harris have objected to the gist and are set to launch a judicial review.

Mr Thompson’s brother Eugene Thompson is his only surviving next of kin.

“I’ve been fighting for my brother for 30 years,” he said.

“They need to tell me what happened to him.

“Where is the truth and justice?

“I think they are making a laughing stock of the legal system.

“It is delay, delay, delay and coming up with excuses.”

During the brief inquest hearing on Monday Mr Thompson’s barrister Monye Anyadike-Danes KC raised concerns about the development.

She added that the inquest is now in “no-man’s land”.

“It has been the next of kin’s view that there is scope for the (Ministry of Defence) and PSNI to take whatever it is possible for them to take to prolong matters so that we never actually get the thing, which not just the next of kin wishes, but that a whole community wishes - which is to hear the evidence from the PSNI and MoD.

“And to have your findings on this matter that has exercised and continues to be a raw wound in this community.”

Speaking outside court, solicitor Gemma McKeown from the Committee on the Administration of Justice said: “One can’t help reflecting on the very strong words from Mr Boutcher in Operation Kenova, who stated that there can be no meaningful reconciliation unless and until victims and families know the truth of what happened, and that report aimed to contribute to peace and reconciliation.

“Yet today we have been notified that the PSNI and SoS are taking a course of action in this much delayed inquest which adds further delay to proceedings that should be in the third and final week of hearing and threatens to prevent another family and community from getting to the truth about what happened.”

A spokeswoman for the British government said: “It is a longstanding position that we maintain a policy of neither confirming nor denying allegations relating to national security.

“That principle can only be effective when applied consistently, in order to mitigate risks to national security.”

The PSNI said: “As this is the subject of ongoing inquest proceedings, it would be inappropriate for the police service to comment further at this time.”