Lawyers representing the families of two IRA men shot dead by security forces in controversial circumstances went to the House of Lords today to challenge the manner in which the inquests into their deaths will proceed.
Pearse Jordan was shot dead by an RUC officer after the stolen car he was driving was involved in a collision with a police vehicle on Belfast’s Falls Road in 1992.
Martin McCaughey was shot dead near Loughgall, Co Armagh, by an undercover SAS unit two years earlier.
Jordan’s father Hugh, who successfully took the British government to the European Court of Human Rights in 2001 for a breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, is seeking to secure changes to the inquests system to permit a jury in the North to return a verdict of unlawful killing.
McCaughey’s father Owen is seeking to compel Chief Constable Hugh Orde to produce key documents including intelligence reports relevant to the death of his son and the report of the RUC’s investigating officer.
In January 2002 Northern Ireland High Court Judge Mr Justice Weatherup ordered the disclosure of the documents. However, Mr Orde successfully appealed the ruling in January 2005.
Peter Madden of Madden and Finucane, solicitor for both families, said: “The decision of the House of Lords will have profound implications for the manner in which inquests shall be conducted by coroners in Northern Ireland.”
He said previous judicial challenges his firm had taken had secured amendments to the Coroners' Rules, which now compel those members of the security forces responsible for the use of lethal force to appear at inquests and be subject to cross examination by lawyers for the families.
“We hope that the outcome of these further challenges will enable the families to have access to all relevant documents and permit the jury to return a verdict of excessive force and unlawful killing, in protection of the families’ legitimate interests, the public interest and in a manner which is compatible with Article 2 of the European Convention, the right to life,” said Mr Madden.
The Jordan killing sparked controversy after witnesses claimed he was shot several times in the back by an unnamed RUC sergeant while trying to run away after his stolen car was rammed by a police vehicle.
McCaughey was allegedly unarmed when he and fellow IRA man Dessie Grew were shot by the SAS as they walked towards a barn where weapons were stored.
The killing raised fresh allegations of a shoot-to-kill policy being operated as McCaughey was said to be a “marked man” after being wounded in a shoot out with soldiers earlier in the same year and escaping across the border.