There will not be a public inquiry into the loyalist murder of Pat Finucane, the UK government says
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Mr Lewis said he talked to the Finucane family. “I advised them of my decision not to establish a public inquiry at this time,” he said.
Mr Finucane, a 39-year-old solicitor, was shot dead in his family home in north Belfast in February 1989 by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in an attack found to have involved collusion with elements of the state.
In a statement to MPs, Mr Lewis said that he was not ruling out a public inquiry at a later date.
He said: “In February 2019 the Supreme Court made a declaration that the state had not discharged its obligation to conduct an Article 2 compliant investigation into the death of Mr Finucane.
“That judgment specifically set out that it is for the state to decide what form of investigation, if indeed any is now feasible, is required in order to meet that requirement.
“It did not order a public inquiry but, in considering all the options open to me to meet the State’s obligations under Article 2, I have considered whether a public inquiry would be the most appropriate step to address the specific findings of the courts at this time.”
Labour reacted angrily to the decision. The shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh said: “I note that he is not ruling a full public inquiry out in the future, why does he not grasp this opportunity to deliver it now?”
Mr Lewis explained his decision making process to MPs.
He said: “I have this afternoon spoken to the Finucane family, I advised them of my decision not to establish a public inquiry at this time.
“Our public statement published this afternoon sets out the considered rationale for this decision.”
Mr Lewis said that PSNI and Police Ombudsman investigations into the 1989 loyalist paramilitary shooting are to go ahead.
Outlining the rationale for the decision, Mr Lewis told MPs: “In reaching its conclusion, the Supreme Court identified a number of issues with previous investigations in this case.
“Firstly, there was no identification of the officers within the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), security service and secret intelligence service who failed to warn Patrick Finucane of known threats to his life in 1981 and 1985, together with the circumstances in which these failures occurred.
“Secondly, there was no identification of the RUC officers, who as Desmond de Silva said, probably did propose Mr Finucane as a target for loyalist terrorists in December 1988.
“And thirdly, there was no identification of the police source who provided intelligence about Patrick Finucane to Ken Barrett.”
Mr Lewis added that the Supreme Court “did not render the previous reviews and investigations” as “null and void”.
He said: “As (Owen Paterson) stated in 2011, accepting that collusion occurred is not sufficient in itself.
“The government recognises the need to ensure sufficient levels of public scrutiny of criminal investigations and their results.
“And I am today publishing further information that was considered by the independent council in their review since the Supreme Court judgment — some of which has previously been released into the public domain.
“This includes information pertaining to a police service of Northern Ireland review conducted in 2015.”
Mr Lewis explained how a number of issues were referred to the police ombudsman in 2016, noting: “In addition, the legacy investigation branch of the PSNI informed my department on November 2 2020 that Patrick Finucane’s case is shortly due to undergo a process of review in accordance with the priorities set out in their case sequencing model.
“The chief constable confirmed this is expected to begin early in the new year. To be clear, this is a purely operational police matter. The UK government, rightly, has no role whatsoever in determining how or when the police deal with their outstanding legacy caseload.
“However, the fact a decision on a police review is due shortly is an important development and was a factor in determining the next steps in this case. Critically, a review would consider whether further investigative steps could be taken in this case and whether the PSNI should do so.”
Mr Lewis added any review would be conducted independently of the PSNI.
He also said: “I want to be clear, I’m not taking the possibility of a public inquiry off the table at this stage — it is important we allow the PSNI and police ombudsman processes to move forward and that we avoid the risk of prejudicing any emerging conclusions from their work.”
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh said: “I note that he is not ruling a full public inquiry out in the future, why does he not grasp this opportunity to deliver it now?”
She said: “That this crime could happen at all in our country is shocking, that it has never been investigated to a lawful standard is unjustifiable and we have to ask ourselves, as we do with all legacy issues with The Troubles, do we accept a lesser standard of justice for citizens of Northern Ireland than we would if this terrible crime had happened in our constituencies? The secretary of state references the Manchester inquiry, do victims in Northern Ireland not deserve the same transparency and justice?”
Ms Haigh added: “It appears that nothing the secretary of state has announced today will make up for these most fundamental shortcomings in previous reviews and the family have described his approach as farcical.
“Is he not concerned that all this does is leave him open to further legal challenge and being back here in a few months or years time waiting for a legacy investigation branch review, which the police themselves acknowledge they are not operationally independent enough to conduct and an ombudsman review of existing evidence are simply delaying the inevitability of the only right and legal course of action.”
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