Family appeal failed legal bid to get inquest

August 1988... Three people died in the IRA booby trap explosion at a flat in Kildrum Gardens in Londonderry's Creggan.''Good Samaritan killing
August 1988... Three people died in the IRA booby trap explosion at a flat in Kildrum Gardens in Londonderry's Creggan.''Good Samaritan killing

The family of one of three neighbours killed in an IRA bombing 30 years ago are to appeal a failed legal bid to secure a new inquest, it emerged today.

Last year the High Court dismissed a challenge by Dorothy Johnstone to the attorney general’s refusal to order a fresh tribunal into the so-called Good Samaritan attack which claimed the lives of her father and two others.

Even though Ms Johnstone has herself since died, the Court of Appeal was told steps are now being taken to substitute another relative in the continued proceedings.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan agreed to list the hearing for a date in May.

Outside court the family’s solicitor, Kevin Winters, said: “Yet again another relative connected to a Troubles killing sadly passes away without ever seeing closure.”

The case was the first of its kind to challenge the decision-making powers of Northern Ireland’s chief legal officer.

Ms Johnstone’s 54-year-old father Eugene Dalton and Sheila Lewis, 68, were both killed in the explosion at a house in Creggan area 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 Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire published findings that RUC officers had information about an IRA booby trap bomb in a house in the housing estate but did nothing to warn residents of the possible danger.

He identified a failure in the police obligation to protect the lives of the public.

Following his report Attorney General John Larkin QC decided a new inquest was not advisable at that time.

But Ms Johntsone’s legal team claim it could help to establish responsibility for police failures.

They contend that investigative obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights were rekindled by the Ombudsman’s findings.

Ordering a new inquest could establish responsibility for police failures and provide fresh hope of identifying and punishing those responsible, according to their case.

However, in March 2017 a High Court judge refused to quash Mr Larkin’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, he ruled that the Attorney General was justified in concluding such a step was not advisable.

In the Court of Appeal today Fiona Doherty QC, for the Dalton family, confirmed plans to continue the case in another relative’s name.

Tony McGleenan QC, for the Attorney General, replied that the move may need to be legally tested.

“There’s an issue under consideration about whether substitution can be achieved in respect of judicial review,” he said.

Despite the potential uncertainly, Sir Declan decided that the appeal should be fixed for hearing.