A SENIOR Coroner has granted Police a week to present a new plan to end a standoff on disclosing files on alleged shoot-to-kill incidents during the Troubles. The PSNI had been criticised for a late objection to how documents containing one million pages relating to nine long-delayed inquests were to be processed.
Lawyers for the families objected and after Coroner John Leckey gave Chief Constable Matt Baggott one week to give an explanation , the police responded by seeking time to present a timetabled plan to resolve the issue. The preliminary hearing in Belfast heard police believed they could present a proposal which would see the documentation issue dealt with by the end of the year, allowing the long-awaited probes to begin in 2013.
The cases involve six people, including IRA members and a Catholic teenager, shot by security forces around Lurgan and Armagh in 1982 amid claims there was a deliberate intention to kill them. The coroner will also examine the deaths of three RUC officers in a bomb blast weeks earlier, an attack allegedly carried out by the IRA men who were subsequently gunned down and therefore seen as a potential motivation for the claimed shoot-to-kill policy.
Fiona Doherty, representing two of the police shooting victims, said she had little choice but to accept the proposal. ” It seems that the PSNI are prepared to come up with a more detailed proposal,” she said. ” We are where we are but we have been coming to these preliminary hearings since 2007 and I am not really at all clear what the police have been doing for the past five years.” ” We really have no choice but to say that we accept the proposal for adjournment. All the cards are in police hands.” A lawyer representing the police said of the task to prepare the major collection of documentation : ” Work has continued apace throughout and will continue.” The court heard that the issues were about the management of the process. Mr Leckey said : ” I look forward to receiving the written submission next Friday, or by next Friday.”
The coroner is investigating the deaths of IRA volenteers, Eugene Toman, Sean Burns and Gervaise McKerr near Lurgan, Co Armagh, in November 1982. Police fired 109 bullets into the car the three were travelling in, claiming it had crashed through a checkpoint. It later emerged they were suspected of involvement in the killings of the three RUC officers in the bomb attack a fortnight earlier and had been under observation. Sergeant John Quinn and constables Alan McCloy and Paul Hamilton died when an IRA device exploded beneath their armoured police car in Kinnego, near Lurgan.
The other alleged shoot-to-kill incidents Mr Leckey will examine are the deaths of teenager Michael Tighe, shot dead by the RUC in November 1982 at a hay shed near Craigavon, Co Armagh, where rifles were stored, and suspected INLA men Roddy Carroll and Seamus Grew, shot dead at a police checkpoint near Armagh in December 1982. The inquests were due to start next April, running chronologically. The bomb attack on the three RUC officers will be examined first. An investigation into whether police set out to kill was carried out in the years after the incidents by former Greater Manchester Police deputy chief constable John Stalker and Sir Colin Sampson of West Yorkshire Police. The Stalker and Sampson reports were long classified top secret but the PSNI finally handed over edited versions to the coroner in 2010 after a long legal battle. The reports were then passed to lawyers for the families.
WITH MANY THANKS TO : Steven McCaffery, THE IRISH NEWS.
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