Sister of New Lodge Six victim wins first round of court battle

The sister of one of six men believed to have been shot dead by British soldiers in north Belfast has won High Court permission to challenge an alleged failure to establish an independent police investigation.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 3:10 pm
High Court judge Mr Justice McFarland ordered a full hearing of the challenge later this year

Leave was granted to seek a judicial review into the PSNI’s decision to have its Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) examine events in the New Lodge area nearly 50 years ago.

Proceedings were issued by Rosaleen Beatty, whose brother Ambrose Hardy was among those killed.

The men, known as the New Lodge Six, died in two separate shooting incidents in February 1973.

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James McCann and James Sloan, both 19, were shot by a gunman firing from the back seat of a car as they stood outside a bar at the junction of the New Lodge Road and Antrim Road.

Later that night soldiers are believed to have opened fire on the other four victims from the top of nearby flats.

Anthony Campbell, out celebrating his 19th birthday, was shot outside an ex-servicemen’s club.

Brendan Maguire, 32, and John Loughran, 34, were hit as they tried to drag him out of the line of fire.

Mr Hardy, 24, was shot in the head when he emerged from the bar waving a white cloth, according to eyewitnesses.

At the time the Army stated they were all IRA gunmen – a claim disputed by at least some of the bereaved families.

No weapons were recovered and there is no evidence that any of them were armed.

Nearly three years ago former attorney general John Larkin QC expressed an opinion that there had been no adequate criminal investigation.

He referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to consider using powers to compel a fresh police probe.

But in February the DPP declined to order such inquiries in circumstances where the PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch was already examining the case.

Ms Beatty launched legal action amid concerns about the decisions taken and the PSNI’s independence.

In court today Mr Justice McFarland dismissed her challenge against the DPP.

However, he granted leave to apply for a judicial review into the decision by police to allocate the case to the LIB.

“It is at least arguable that the current investigation is not EHCR (European Convention on Human Rights) compliant and has been subject to delay,” the judge said.

With a fresh inquest into the shootings already ordered, a full hearing of the legal challenge will now take place later this year.

Outside court Ms Beatty’s legal representative, Gary Duffy of KRW Law, said: “This failure is particularly egregious when viewed with the attorney general’s comments that the State has failed to properly investigate the deaths and that criminality may have occurred.

“It is now the responsibility of the chief constable to act urgently and to establish an independent investigation into the killings.”