Police Inquiry into Loyalist Murder Was Not Independent, Human Rights Court Rules
David McKittrick Ireland Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)
THE CASE of the murdered solicitor, Pat Finucane, came back to haunt the Government yet again yesterday when the European Court of Human Rights declared the official investigation into his death inadequate.
The court in Strasbourg ruled that Britain was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of the solicitor, who was shot dead by loyalists in Belfast in 1989. The circumstances of the murder gave rise to suspicions that the security forces had colluded with his killers.
The Government, which was ordered to pay his widow, Geraldine Finucane, EUR43,000 (pounds 30,000) for costs and expenses, said: "The Government takes European Court decisions very seriously and will want to give careful consideration to this decision."
The development was the latest in a complex saga which has generated much legal and political concern. It was welcomed by the Finucane family and by groups such as Amnesty International. Campaigners said they would continue to press for a full public inquiry.
The judges unanimously upheld Mrs Finucane's complaint that there had been no effective investigation into the death. The court also disapproved of the fact that the investigation had been carried out by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, declaring: "It had been conducted by officers who were part of the police force suspected by the applicant of making death threats against her husband.
"There had therefore been a lack of independence, which raised serious doubts as to the thoroughness or effectiveness with which the possibility of collusion had been pursued."
It further said the inquest had not involved any inquiry into the allegations of collusion, and that Mrs Finucane had been refused permission to make a statement about threats to her husband.
The European judges noted that while the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, is currently carrying out an investigation, the Government had admitted that, taking place some 10 years after the event, it could not be regarded as having been carried out promptly and expeditiously. …