Notes on meeting may help to quash refusal of full probe.
A HIGH Court judge is to examine British government meeting notes before deciding whether they should be disclosed to the family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane. Mr Justice Stephens ruled that he should first inspect a series of documents and emails being sought as part of a legal challenge to the refusal to order a full, independent inquiry into the 1989 shooting.
Confidentiality issues will not make them immune from disclosure, he said. Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine wants full access to the material including minutes from cabinet meetings and correspondence between Downing Street officials. A review by Sir Desmond due Silva QC has confirmed that agents of the state were involved in the murder and it should have been prevented. However, it concluded that there had been no overarching state conspiracy in the shooting carried out by the UFF at the solicitor’s North Belfast home. Although Prime Minister David Cameron expressed shock at the level of collusion Sir Desmond uncovered, Mrs Finucane said it a sham and a whitewash. During her application for complete disclosure of notes and recordings the court was told of emailed correspondence in which one of Mr Cameron’s closest advisers described the murder as far worse than anything alleged in Iraq or Afghanistan. Sir Jeremy Heywood, now the cabinet secretary, also questioned whether the prime minister beleived it was right to “renege” on a previous administration’s commitment to hold a public inquiry into a killing he referred to as “a dark moment in the country’s history”, the judge was told.
Lawyers for the Finucane family argued that the case is about past and present abuse of state power. They said it involved the killing of a solicitor percived to be “a thorn in the side” of the government, police and security services. It was claimed that a further abuse of power occurred in 2011 when the current government reneged on a commitment to hold ap public inquiry. The court heard details of an email Sir Jeremy sent to Simon King, a private secretary to the prime minister, ahead of a ministerial meeting in July 2011. In correspondence already disclosed to the parties, he asked : “Does the PM seriously think that it’s right to renege on a previous government’s clear commitment to hold a full judicial inquiry ? “This was a dark moment in the country’s history – far worse than anything that was alleged in Iraq/Afghanistan. “I cannot really think of any arguement to defend not having a public inquiry. What am I missing ?” A replay email stated that the prime minister “shares the view this is an awful case, and as bad as it gets, and far worse than any post -9/11 allegation”. Material being sought by the Finucanes’ lawyers includes origional notes, minutes, recordings or transcripts of :
- a meeting of ministers on July 11 2011
- a cabinet meeting on October 11 2011
copies of letters from MI5 to the NIO in February and March 2011.
Delivering judgement on the discovery application, Mr Justice Stephens held that Mrs Finucane’s legal team had established sufficient necessity. He said : “I direct that I should receive and inspect the outstanding documents so that I may decide whether disclosure would give sufficient extra assistance to the applicant’s case, over and above the material that has already been furnished.” Further submissions are to be made on any redactions required should he ultimately decide that the material must be handed over.
With many thanks to : Irish news.
- Judge to inspect Finucane documents before disclosure (newsletter.co.uk)
- Judge will rule on disclosure of notes to Finucanes (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
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- Pat Finucane: State Sponsored Murder (iamunchienandalusia.wordpress.com)
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