Northern Ireland news

Secretary of state accused of 'outrageous' attempt to undermine Supreme Court's Pat Finucane murder investigation findings

Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane who was shot dead by loyalists

SECRETARY of State Brandon Lewis is involved in an "outrageous" attempt to undermine Supreme Court findings that solicitor Pat Finucane's assassination has never been effectively investigated, a judge has heard.

The lawyer's widow is taking legal action against Mr Lewis for deciding not to hold a public inquiry into state collusion in the murder.

As Geraldine Finucane's case was put back to November, her barrister claimed a hold-up is part of an "exercise in obfuscation".

"This process that is currently underway, and the reason for the delay in the secretary of state's response, is directed to what we say is an impermissible and frankly outrageous attempt to undermine the Supreme Court decision delivered in February 2019," Fiona Doherty QC said.

Mr Finucane was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries at his north Belfast home in February 1989.

His family have campaigned for a public inquiry to establish the full scale of security force collusion in the murder.

Two years ago Supreme Court justices held that previous probes failed to meet Article 2 human rights standards and Mrs Finucane issued legal proceedings to force the British government to act on the finding that no proper investigation has been carried out.

Mr Lewis - who was ordered to pay Mrs Finucane £7,500 damages for the "excessive" delay - apologised for the time taken, but said there could not be a public inquiry while the police review processes run their course.

A challenge to the legality of his decision was due to be heard this month, but lawyers for the Secretary of State sought more time to carry out security assessments and prepare their case.

Paul McLaughlin QC indicated recovery and analyse of archived documents from police facilities at Seapark should be completed by the end of August, suggesting the case could be ready for hearing "just after Halloween".

Ms Doherty said this would give the secretary of state a "staggering" four and a half months to prepare his case - "at best disappointing, and at worst unacceptable".

Listing the case for a four-day hearing in November, Mr Justice Scoffield acknowledged Mrs Finucane's frustrations and told the secretary of state to file any evidence by August 30 - "a deadline I expect to be met."

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