Judgement reserved in Finucane case

A judicial review into the British Government’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane will have a big impact regardless of the outcome, the solicitor’s son has said.

Judgement reserved in Finucane case

A judicial review into the British Government’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane will have a big impact regardless of the outcome, the solicitor’s son has said.

John Finucane was speaking after judgment in the case was reserved following four days of complex legal argument at Belfast High Court.

He said: “This decision has a big impact no matter what is decided, either for our family or for the Government.

“If the court decides in our favour then the size and impact of that cannot be under-estimated.”

Lawyers for the Finucane family are challenging the 2011 decision by British Prime Minister David Cameron to reject a statutory probe into allegations of state involvement in the killing, one of the most controversial of the 40-year conflict.

Adjourning the high profile case, Lord Justice Stephens said: “I am going to reserve my judgment in this case.

“I thank counsel involved and also solicitors.”

Mr Finucane, who represented a number of high profile republicans, was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife and three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989.

Instead of proceeding with a full inquiry, Mr Cameron commissioned QC Desmond de Silva to review all the existing documents relating to the case and produce a public narrative of what happened.

A barrister representing Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine claimed the decision was based on a “sham process” which had a pre-determined outcome.

Barry MacDonald QC also alleged former UK Secretary of State Owen Paterson had committed himself while in opposition not to hold any more costly or open ended inquiries.

He said: “I make no apology for accusing the Secretary of State of being involved in this sham process.

“They (the government) have to be seen to conduct this process if they are not going to make a decision that is not going to be quashed on judicial review.”

The court heard that correspondence, between officials and the Prime Minister dated November 2010, suggested Mr Paterson had been advised to say further inquiry would “not be appropriate”.

The Government was also preparing to handle the potential political fallout with their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, Sinn Féin, the Irish and American governments who were all in favour of a public inquiry, Mr MacDonald said.

“There is no mention of how to handle unionists and others who were against having an inquiry,” he added.

“It does tend to suggest they knew what the decision was going to be.

“That there would not be an inquiry.”

The Finucane family has long campaigned for a full independent public inquiry into the murder, but the Prime Minister has insisted such an exercise would not shed any more light on the events.

The review of the controversial murder published by Mr de Silva detailed shocking levels of state involvement.

That included spreading malicious propaganda that Mr Finucane was sympathetic to the IRA; one or possibly more police officers proposing him as a target to loyalists; and the mishandling of state agents inside the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) who were involved in the murder.

While Mr de Silva found no evidence of an overarching conspiracy by the authorities to target the 38-year-old solicitor, he said the actions of a number of state employees had “furthered and facilitated” the shooting by the UDA.

He also said there had been efforts to thwart the subsequent criminal investigation.

In December 2012, Mr Cameron reiterated an apology to the Finucane family in the House of Commons and pledged that the Government would examine the report in detail to identify potential lessons.

In his closing submissions, Mr MacDonald argued: “It is not for the court to stand back from this decision because there may be political consequences down the line.”

Earlier, James Eadie QC claimed the British state had fulfilled its obligations under human rights legislation through “various investigations” by police and the authorities which led to the arrest and conviction of those directly responsible.

Mr Eadie told the court there had been “no lack of rigour” in the Stevens or de Silva probes.

He claimed de Silva had re-examined the case “from scratch” and produced evidence-based conclusions which “pulled no punches” about the failings of the state.

“It was a more thorough investigation than one could possibly wish for,” the barrister said.

Speaking outside court, John Finucane said the judicial review had provided a fascinating insight into the decision-making processes at Westminster regarding his father’s case.

He said: “What this case this week has shown is that we have a difficulty with a hidden narrative being provided to us and the public at large.

“What we want to see, which is reflected by the support that we receive, is a very public examination of what went on.

“We wish to challenge narratives.

“We wish to cross-examine witnesses, challenge documents and really find out for ourselves exactly what went on.”

The case has been adjourned.

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