Northern Ireland

Family of John Copeland to take legal action against the PPS

John Copeland was shot dead by the British army in October 1971
John Copeland was shot dead by the British army in October 1971

The widow of a north Belfast man shot dead by the British army almost 50 years ago is set to launch legal action over a decision by prosecutors not to order a new PSNI investigation into the killing.

Isobel Copeland's husband John died in October 1971.

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

Just before he was killed another man, Michael McLarnon, was shot by troops in nearby Etna Drive and died a short time later.

Mr Copeland's widow is currently suing the Ministry of Defence for the alleged unlawful killing of her husband.

In 2014 Attorney General John Larkin refused a request to order a fresh inquest in the case.

However, after the release of a draft Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report by the PSNI, Mr Larkin was asked to revisit his original decision.

In response he wrote to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) asking them to direct the PSNI to investigate the shooting.

The PPS has subsequently refused to make what is known as a section 35 (5) referral.

Mr Copeland's son, prominent Belfast republican Eddie Copeland, said his family was disappointed by the latest decision.

“Legacy cases are just dragging their heels and it's really disappointing,” he said.

“My mother is going into her 70s and we want some sort of closure for her before it's too late.”

Mr Copeland said he is mindful of other family's who lost loved ones and that his family is determined to continue their campaign despite the latest set back.

“I was one and a half when my father was killed and my sister two and a half,” he said.

“Between us there will be someone there to fight.

“We have been fighting this for 15 years and it's (still) going around.

“Hopefully we will get some sort of closure.”

Solicitor Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, said as a result of the Attorney General's intervention the Copeland family had “raised expectations that at last their case would be looked at”.

“With decisions like this you cannot blame families if they become totally disillusioned,” he said.

Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice, who has helped the family, said: “Rather than acting in the interest of justice it appears the PPS is content with this continuing situation.

“This is unacceptable.”

A spokesman for the PPS said: “While we understand why families may view a section 35(5) request as a vehicle by which their case can be expedited, the Director of Public Prosecutions considered such a request inappropriate in this case.

“The reasons for this have previously been outlined in a letter to the legal representatives of the Copeland family."