Northern Ireland news

Legal action against UK Government for not holding public inquiry into Pat Finucane murder put back to next year

The case was taken out of the list amid delays in Secretary of State Brandon Lewis lodging all necessary documents

LEGAL action against the UK Government for not holding a public inquiry into the assassination of solicitor Pat Finucane is to be put back to next year.

A challenge mounted by the murdered lawyer's widow was scheduled for a five-day hearing at the High Court in Belfast next month.

But the case was taken out of the list amid delays in Secretary of State Brandon Lewis lodging all necessary documents to defend the proceedings.

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

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

In February 2019 the Supreme Court held that previous probes failed to meet Article 2 human rights standards.

Geraldine Finucane initially issued proceedings to force the government to act on the finding that no proper investigation had been carried out.

Mr Lewis apologised for the delay but announced last November there would not be a public inquiry at this point.

An order was then made for the secretary of state to pay £7,500 damages to Mrs Finucane for the "excessive" delay.

The current challenge centres on the legality of his decision to await the outcome of reviews by the PSNI's Legacy Investigations Branch and Police Ombudsman.

Amid efforts to recover and analyse all relevant archived documents from police facilities at Seapark in Co Antrim, lawyers for the secretary of state sought more time to carry out security assessments and get ready for the case.

Mr Justice Scoffield was told that the process to prepare evidence involves going through 1,000 pages of documents.

Counsel for Mrs Finucane has repeatedly expressed scepticism. At previous hearings it was claimed Mr Lewis was involved in an "outrageous" attempt to undermine the Supreme Court findings and trying to "run down the clock".

With the case listed to get underway on November 15, extensions were granted to avoid further missed deadlines.

However, the judge formally vacated those dates during a court review today.

A new date early in 2022 is expected to be fixed next month.

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