Censored report ‘probably knew identity of UVF killers’

Bobby Moffett was killed in a 'public execution' on Belfast's Shankill Road in 2010
Bobby Moffett was killed in a 'public execution' on Belfast's Shankill Road in 2010

An international body who examined the loyalist paramilitary murder of a man on the streets of Belfast probably know the killers’ identities, a court has heard.

Senior judges were also told the British Government is under a legal obligation to disclose a report on Bobby Moffett’s “public execution” – irrespective of any alleged security force collusion.

Mr Moffett’s sister, Irene Owens, is seeking to overturn a ruling that the Secretary of State was right to refuse to hand over all material gathered by the now defunct Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC).

She wants the information supplied to the coroner for an inquest into her brother’s murder.

Mr Moffett, 43, was shot dead at point blank range in front of shoppers and children on Belfast’s Shankill Road in May 2010.

No one has ever been convicted of the killing.

Months later the IMC issued a special report declaring his murder had been sanctioned by the UVF’s leadership.

The commission concluded that he was targeted due to his perceived flouting of UVF authority, and to send a message to the organisation and the community that this authority was not to be challenged.

In its report the commission described the killing as a public execution, but declined to say that it amounted to a breach of the terror grouping’s ceasefire.

So far only an edited version of the report has been supplied for the purposes of holding an inquest.

Ms Owens issued High Court proceedings in a bid to compel the Secretary of State to release the dossier in full.

Her lawyers argued that anything less undermines the coroner’s ability to oversee a human rights-compliant inquest into a murder which has raised concerns the killer may have been protected as a state agent.

Last year a judge dismissed the legal challenge after finding the Secretary of State’s decision rational and lawful.

He held that any violation of the integrity of the IMC’s archive could have “far-reaching deleterious implications for the UK Government”.

However, Ms Owens’ legal team went before the Court of Appeal on Wednesday in an attempt to have the verdict overturned.

David Scoffield QC argued that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights puts an obligation on the Secretary of State to provide the information.

The barrister told a panel of three senior judges, led by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, that the IMC regarded the killing as a “planned, premeditated, intentional attack”.

Referring to findings reached by the commission on the basis of extensive inquiries, Mr Scoffield said: “The first conclusion is the murder was committed by members of the UVF and they were acting as such.

“That is highly suggestive, in our submission, that the commission knows or feels it knows who actually committed this murder.”

He added: “If the commission knows who committed the murder and has evidence to suggest that, then that is very plainly relevant material which the coroner should see.

“It would be unthinkable for the coroner not to seek access to that material.”

With the IMC no longer operating, Mr Scoffield insisted there could be no reason to withhold the material because of its work.

He also argued that an ongoing Police Ombudsman probe should not impact on what was being sought.

“Even if there’s no state involvement or suggestion of that, there’s still an Article 2 obligation to provide information where the coroner is investigating a violent murder.”

The appeal continues.