Northern Ireland’s Attorney General is challenging a ruling that obligations to hold a human rights-compliant investigation into circumstances surrounding the so-called Good Samaritan attack in Londonderry have not been met.
The case has now been listed for a two-day hearing in October at the Supreme Court in London.
Lawyers for one victims’ family predicted it will have implications for attempts to obtain fresh inquests into hundreds of other deaths during the Troubles.
Eugene (Sean) Dalton, 54, was killed along with Sheila Lewis, 68, in the explosion at a house in the Creggan area of the city in August 1988.
A third victim, 57-year-old Gerard Curran, died months after being pulled from the rubble.
The attack became known as the ‘Good Samaritan Bombing’ because the three friends had gone to check on the whereabouts of a neighbour kidnapped earlier by the IRA.
The paramilitary grouping later apologised, admitting it had planted the device in a bid to kill soldiers.
In 2013 a Police Ombudsman report found RUC officers had information about an IRA booby trap bomb at a house in the housing estate but did nothing to warn residents. The watchdog identified a failure in the police obligation to protect the lives of the public.
Northern Ireland’s Attorney General at the time, John Larkin QC, decided a new inquest was not advisable.
Mr Dalton’s daughter, Rosaleen, launched judicial review proceedings.
She contended that investigative duties under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights were rekindled by the Ombudsman’s findings.
In 2017 a High Court judge refused to quash the Attorney General’s decision, citing the financial and human costs of a further public hearing which would be unlikely to advance the goal of prosecuting the perpetrators.
But three years later the Court of Appeal reached a different conclusion. It made a key finding that a revived Article 2 investigative obligation in the case has not been satisfied.
The current Attorney General, Brenda King, has now been granted permission to take the case to the Supreme Court for a determination on the scope of investigatory procedures required.
Ms Dalton’s legal representative, Anurag Deb of KRW Law, said: “This case will affect all future applications for new inquests in hundreds of unresolved Conflict-related killings.”