Northern Ireland

Scope of inquest into man’s death in incident involving soldiers to be looked at

Francis Bradley was 20 when he was killed in 1986 (Family handout/PA)
Francis Bradley was 20 when he was killed in 1986 (Family handout/PA) Francis Bradley was 20 when he was killed in 1986 (Family handout/PA)

The scope of a fresh inquest into the death of a man in an incident involving soldiers in Co Derry is to be considered.

Francis Bradley, 20, was killed in disputed circumstances near Toomebridge in 1986.

At the time of the killing, the IRA said Mr Bradley was not a member. However, his name was later added to the organisation’s “roll of honour”.

In 2010, then-attorney general John Larkin KC ordered a fresh inquest into the controversial killing.

The inquest opened in April and heard from a number of witnesses.

It is being heard in modular format, with the opening tranche of evidence that was not considered controversial in the initial hearings before being adjourned.

A previous review hearing was told it was envisaged the inquest would proceed in February 2024.

A review hearing on Friday heard an argument over whether a recent Supreme Court judgment should impact the scope of the Bradley inquest.

The judgment, issued earlier this month, held that Roseleen Dalton could not challenge the Attorney General for Northern Ireland’s refusal to open a new inquest into the death of her father Sean Dalton in 1988, because it happened too long before the coming into force of the Human Rights Act in 1998.

Her argument had relied on the obligation on public authorities to investigate an individual’s death under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – given effect to by the Human Rights Act.

During a review hearing in the Francis Bradley inquest, lawyers made submissions around the impact of that ruling.

Peter Coll KC, acting for the Ministry of Defence, argued there is “no basis for the court to be entitled to look at issues about the use of force” unless article 2 is engaged. He suggested otherwise it would be a “fact-finding exercise”, adding: “To engage in issues of justification goes beyond mere fact finding”.

Karen Quinlivan KC, acting for the Bradley family, said an inquest is “entitled to investigate whether force used was justified”.

“It’s common case that Francis Bradley was shot by two soldiers … so what we’re asking ourselves is, when the Army sent these soldiers out and when the police sent these soldiers out, was there a deliberate policy of killing anyone they encountered or was the operation planned so that that was an inevitable outcome?” she asked.

Coroner Peter Irvine said he would consider the submissions which have been made.

“My intention is to reflect upon everything which has been submitted in written form, and orally today,” he said.

His counsel said his team will consider the suggestions in the submissions, and provide a provisional redraft of the scope document, if considered appropriate.

Another preliminary hearing is to take place on November 13.