The father of a loyalist paramilitary leader gunned down in prison won a legal challenge against a decision to hold the inquiry into the killing under controversial legislation passed last year.
The High Court in Belfast ruled in favour of David Wright after he objected to the inquiry into his son Billy’s murder in the high security Maze Prison in December 1997 being held under the Inquiries Act 2005.
Billy Wright was the leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force.
Initially the Billy Wright Inquiry was to be held under the Prisons Act but Northern Secretary Peter Hain changed the terms under which the tribunal would be held.
Human rights organisations and nationalist politicians have been highly critical of the Inquiries Act, claiming it would enable government ministers to suppress certain evidence and even terminate them.
Mr Justice Deeny ruled today that Mr Hain’s decision to bring the Billy Wright Inquiry – one of four inquiries set up into controversial murders in the North probed by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory – was unlawful, and failed to take into account the importance of the inquiry’s independence.
The judge did not suspect bad faith on the part of Mr Hain but said his move was ill-advised.
Mr Hain later expressed his disappointment with the judgment which he said he would study closely.
The Northern Ireland Office said the decision to convert the Billy Wright Inquiry to the 2005 Inquiries Act was taken at the request of the tribunal’s independent chairman, Lord MacLean.