Northern Ireland news

Coroner 'abdicated responsibility to reach a verdict on central issues in Pearse Jordan killing'

Pearse Jordan was shot dead by an RUC officer in 1992

A CORONER abdicated his responsibility to reach a verdict on the central issues in the police killing of an IRA man, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Counsel for the mother of Pearse Jordan claimed the evidence should have led to a conclusion that his shooting in west Belfast nearly 26 years ago was unjustified.

Teresa Jordan wants senior judges to quash an inquest finding that it was impossible to determine what happened on the day her son died.

She is appealing after the High Court rejected her bid for a judicial review.

Pearse Jordan's death was one of several high-profile cases in Northern Ireland involving allegations the RUC were involved in shoot-to-kill incidents.

The 22-year-old had been driving a hijacked car stopped by police in an anti-terrorist operation in November 1992.

He was shot after getting out on the Falls Road and trying to run away, unarmed.

In November 2016 the coroner overseeing a fresh inquest into the death said he was not convinced either by family claims that Jordan was gunned down in cold blood, or by police assertions that the RUC sergeant who opened fire acted in self-defence.

He held that the State had failed to prove the use of lethal force was lawful, but concluded that the precise circumstances of how the IRA man met his death remains unknown.

But Mrs Jordan's lawyers contend the disputed issues of fact should have been resolved in the evidence.

Ballistic evidence was disregarded without evaluation or explanation, along with an alleged failure to apply the identified standard of proof to issues in the case, they contend.

Mrs Jordan is seeking a declaration that the inquest was unfair, unlawful and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

A High Court judge dismissed her case after counsel for the coroner insisted he had been best placed to reach conclusions about the facts and assess the credibility of witnesses during 16 days of evidence.

Appealing that outcome, Barry Macdonald QC argued: "First and foremost the coroner abdicated his responsibility to arrive at a verdict in relation to the central issues to be determined in the inquest."

He told senior judges there had been a legal obligation to make every effort to arrive at a conclusion.

"The reasons given by the coroner for his failure to reach a conclusion are neither exceptional nor sufficient to justify his findings," Mr Macdonald continued.

The barrister argued that "on the evidence the coroner ought to have concluded that the shooting of Pearse Jordan by Sergeant A was not justified".

The appeal continues.

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