Coroner ‘startled' by British Attorney General's failure to reply to files query
A coroner examining the death of a man shot during a prison break has expressed concern at an ongoing failure by the Attorney General in London to respond to a request for files related to the case.
Hugh Gerard Coney was shot in the back by a British soldier as he and other internees tried to escape the Long Kesh facility in 1974.
The republican internee had used a tunnel to escape the prison camp and was running across a field close to the perimeter fence when he was shot.
A fresh inquest into the killing of the 24-year-old from Coalisland, Co Tyrone, is due to be heard next February.
At a pre-inquest review hearing at Belfast Coroner’s Court on Monday, coroner Anne Louise Toal was told that multiple attempts to contact the office of the Attorney General for England and Wales over the last nine months had gone without a response.
The coroner is seeking any documents the office may hold related to the 1974 incident.
Counsel for the coroner Leona Askin told her that there had been no response at all from Suella Braverman’s office in London.
“There hasn’t been any response madam coroner, not even an acknowledgement,” she said.
“And I know that your solicitor has attempted to telephone them as well and that has been unsuccessful as it’s difficult to find someone who’s able to deal with it.”
Ms Toal said she found the lack of response “quite startling” and formally requested that the office replies within four weeks.
“I’m highly surprised given the fact it is the Attorney General’s office and as I understand it this correspondence has been going on since September of last year,” she said.
“Yet to have no response from a governmental public body after this length of time is frankly quite startling.”
She added: “I would ask for a response within four weeks, even be it a holding response to acknowledge the correspondence and what steps are being taken.”
Ms Askin said RTE had also not responded to a request for material on a documentary the Irish broadcaster had made on the prison escape.
Ms Toal also issued a formal request for the broadcaster to respond to her within four weeks.
“I certainly think if they’ve been written to on a number of occasions and there’s been no response, I’m certainly happy to provide a direction that a response be provided within four weeks,” she said.