Northern Ireland

Family press for inquest to be completed before May 2024 cut off

Patrick Duffy was shot dead at a house in Londonderry in 1978 (family handout/PA)
Patrick Duffy was shot dead at a house in Londonderry in 1978 (family handout/PA)

The family of a man shot by soldiers in Derry in 1978 have urged that a fresh inquest into his death is completed before a potential cut off date next year.

Under the Government’s controversial Legacy Bill, all inquests into events from Northern Ireland’s troubled past which have not been completed by May 2024 will be transferred to a new body.

The Bill is at the final stages of the Parliamentary process, and despite being widely opposed by the Stormont parties and Irish government, could pass into law in the coming months.

A fresh inquest into the death of Patrick Duffy, 50, is among a number of coronial investigations which are under way.

Mr Duffy was shot up to 14 times in November 1978 at a house in the Brandywell area of Derry by British soldiers.

The inquest is proceeding in a modular approach, hearing sections of evidence available while waiting for the process of the disclosure of documents by the PSNI and MoD to be completed.

A review hearing on Thursday was told that work is ongoing by the PSNI and MoD on the disclosure of documents relating to the case.

Counsel for the PSNI and MoD told the hearing he does not consider this to be “a particularly document heavy case”.

But he said that the PSNI and MoD are under pressure preparing documents for a number of legacy inquests.

Asked for a potential timeframe, he said he is not in a position to do that at this point.

A further hearing is set to take place in September to set out a time table for the inquest.

Counsel for the Duffy family said they believe the inquest could be completed within two weeks and it can be completed by May 1 next year – the cut off for inquests if a proposed UK government Legacy Bill becomes law.

“We believe that this is capable if there is a court available before Christmas and if there is a strict timetable in terms of disclosure,” he said.

“The family’s preference is a courtroom in Derry but they are not bound to that. They will travel to wherever they are given an inquest.

“I appreciate that you cannot fix a date today but over the summer months we would respectfully ask that availability is gathered in respect of potential listings in November and December.

“The fear is that if it goes after Christmas, there are so many inquests that court space will be at a greater premium and make it more difficult to bring this inquest to a conclusion.”

Due to the modular format, in April, a sitting of the inquest heard from members of Mr Duffy’s family, that they hope it will provide answers about his death.

Mr Duffy’s sister Mary Lynch said she wants to get closure over what happened to him before she dies.