Widow of civilian killed at Loughgall can challenge inquest decision

Brigid Hughes(centre)  pictured outside the High Court with other family members.''  '' 'Photograph:Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
Brigid Hughes(centre) pictured outside the High Court with other family members.'' '' 'Photograph:Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

The widow of a civilian shot dead along with eight IRA men can challenge the Secretary of State’s intervention on whether to order fresh inquests, a High Court judge ruled on Thursday.

Brigid Hughes was granted leave to seek a judicial review of Theresa Villiers’ decision to leave the final say on holding new hearings into the SAS killings at Loughgall with advocate general Jeremy Wright QC.

Mr Justice Treacy said: “This is a case which raises issues on the grounds that remain... of considerable complexity, general importance and potentially profound implications.”

Mrs Hughes’ husband Anthony died in May 1987 when he was innocently caught up in what proved to be the largest loss of life suffered by the republican movement during the Troubles.

Undercover soldiers gunned down eight members of the IRA’s East Tyrone unit as they approached an RUC station with a bomb in a hijacked digger.

Last year Mr Hughes’ family received a full government apology, confirming he was entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.

Northern Ireland attorney general John Larkin QC had been considering requests for new inquests after the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg found the rights of those killed at Loughgall had been violated.

But last September Ms Villiers issued a certificate for Mr Wright, who is also Attorney General for England and Wales, to decide on whether to direct a fresh tribunal into the ambush.

Lawyers for Mrs Hughes took legal action against the move, arguing that the British Government should have no role.

She believes authorities in London “played a significant part” in events that ultimately led to his death, the court heard.

Mr Justice Treacy granted leave to seek a judicial review, and listed the case for a full hearing in May.