Northern Ireland

Coroner who probed first fatal shooting by PSNI 'did not go far enough' in findings

Neil McConville (21) was killed following a car chase in Glenavy, Co Antrim in April 2003
Neil McConville (21) was killed following a car chase in Glenavy, Co Antrim in April 2003

A CORONER who probed the first fatal shooting carried out by the PSNI did not go far enough in his findings, the High Court has heard.

Counsel for the former partner of Neil McConville claimed a failure to conclude whether it was absolutely necessary to fire the shot which claimed his life.

Mr McConville (21) was killed following a car chase in Glenavy, Co Antrim in April 2003.

Police mounted an operation to stop the Vauxhall Cavalier he had been driving due to suspicions that a firearm was being transported.

One officer opened fire three times amid fears Mr McConville was about to drive over a colleague knocked down at the scene.

The father of two died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

In April last year an inquest into his death found that the use of lethal force was justified.

However, Judge Philip Basbington also held that the police operation was not planned and controlled in a way that minimised the possible need for such force.

Two separate legal challenges to his findings have been mounted.

Mr McConville’s mother, Colette, is seeking to have the verdict quashed, claiming an unlawful failure to address how he came by his death.

But his partner at the time, Caoime McCann, does not dispute Judge Babington’s assessment or interpretation of the evidence.

Opening her application for judicial review, Monye Anyadike-Danes KC told the court: “The challenge is solely that the coroner did not go far and reach conclusions about the effect of that evidence.”

It was contended that the findings breached requirements within Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights on three points:

  • An alleged failure to conclude whether the firing of the second and fatal shot was justified and/or absolutely necessary
  • A failure to reach a conclusion about tactical advice provided during the police operation
  • Alleged failures to state conclusions on issues of planning and intelligence

Mr Justice Colton was told the inquest heard evidence from 45 witnesses over a 25-day sitting, including an eyewitness to the incident, 29 police officers, seven civilians, three ballistic experts, three forensic pathologists, an engineer and a military witness.

Lawyers representing the coroner are resisting the challenges by arguing that he reached his verdict after examining in detail all available evidence and fulfilling the Article 2 obligation.

But Ms Anyadike-Danes insisted that he did not go on to make the necessary conclusions.

She added: “The relief we seek is a declaration that (the coroner)’s decision was in breach of the procedural obligation under Article 2.”

The hearing continues.