Police must disclose documents to legacy inquests

The lengthy inquest delays facing families whose loved ones have died in controversial circumstances is nothing less than a disgrace.

Some of the cases stuck in the coroner's court date back more than 40 years, which is completely unacceptable.

Recently retired senior coroner John Leckey regularly expressed frustration about the lack of progress in these matters and the failure of the authorities to produce vital documentation.

There is no doubt that trawling through files is a time consuming business and the police may well believe their resources could be better employed on present day cases.

However, our justice system provides for an inquiry to determine the circumstances surrounding a death and that process must not be impeded.

The inquests in relation to a large number of cases involving killings carried out by paramilitaries and security forces, some of them linked to allegations of collusion, have been subject to intolerable delays.

In a bid to get this process moving, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has appointed a senior judge, Lord Justice Reg Weir, to review 56 outstanding Troubles-related inquests covering 95 deaths.

It is clear from Lord Justice Weir's comments so far that the judiciary's patience on this issue is wearing thin.

On Tuesday the PSNI was ordered to hand over 34 files of non-sensitive material relating to the 1997 murder of Co Derry GAA official Sean Brown within two weeks with the judge sending out a firm message on any further hold-ups.

At another review yesterday, into the case of doorman Seamus Dillon who was murdered in Co Tyrone in 1997, the judge said families have been repeatedly disappointed by frequent postponements ``and we have to put a stop to that.''

Bereaved relatives who have waited far too long for an inquest will welcome the judge's remarks and the focus being placed on these important matters.

It is time for the police to fully cooperate with the courts, to speedily produce all relevant documents and allow these cases to be heard without further delay.