Northern Ireland news

Widow of man shot dead by a British soldier begins High Court bid

John Copeland who died on 31 October 1971, two days after being shot by the British Army near his home in Ardoyne

THE widow of a man shot dead by a British soldier in Belfast 47 years ago has commenced a High Court bid to gain access to documents stored in a secret security archive.

Lawyers representing Isobel Copeland are seeking an order for production of material held at Swadlincote in Derbyshire as part of her legal action against the Ministry of Defence.

She is suing for the alleged unlawful killing of her husband, John Copeland, in October 1971.

Mr Copeland (23) was shot close to his Ardoyne home in the north of the city by a member of the Green Howards regiment. He died days later.

His widow and the couple's son, Eddie Copeland, a high-profile republican who was himself shot and wounded by a soldier in 1993, have been pressing for a new inquest into the death.

That campaign was fuelled by a draft Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report which reportedly cast doubt on military claims that John Copeland had been armed and opened fire on an army patrol.

A separate claim for damages has also been brought by Mrs Copeland over the circumstances surrounding her husband's shooting.

Those proceedings are expected to be heard in full next year.

In a preliminary step, Mrs Copeland's legal team have started attempts to ensure the preservation of files connected to the case.

The records are among thousands of documents relating to the Troubles in Northern Ireland which are being kept at the Swadlincote archive.

An application to have the Ministry of Defence compelled to produce the relevant material was adjourned at the High Court today.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, representing Mrs Copeland, later explained the wider significance of the legal move.

He said: "This is important for the family because it will provide additional information to assist in the civil action which is pending next year.

"Not only that, but it's relevant to all military killings during the conflict."

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