Northern Ireland

Pearse Jordan: Fresh inquest to take place

Pearse Jordan
Image caption Pearse Jordan, 21, was shot by police officers in west Belfast in November 1992

Three senior judges have cleared the way for a new inquest into the police shooting of an IRA man 22 years ago.

Pearse Jordan was killed in disputed circumstances on the Falls Road in west Belfast in 1992.

His death was one of several high-profile cases involving claims the security forces were involved in shoot-to-kill incidents.

The Court of Appeal has now upheld a decision to quash the findings of an original inquest.

The ruling was based on the non-disclosure to next-of-kin of reports into allegations of a shoot-to-kill policy.

Further issues over whether the new inquest should sit with a jury are still to be determined.

In October 2012, a long-delayed inquest failed to reach agreement on key aspects.

The jury was split on whether reasonable force was used in the circumstances, the state-of-belief on the part of the officer who fired the fatal shots, and whether any alternative course of action was open to him.

The dead man's father, Hugh, then mounted a wide-ranging judicial review challenge to the outcome.

In January, a High Court judge ruled that the inquest verdict should be quashed on a number of grounds.

Contentious inquest

These included a failure to disclose the Stalker/Sampson reports into other so-called shoot-to-kill cases to the Jordan family and the decision to sit with a jury.

Other grounds for quashing the decision included a refusal to discharge a juror who claimed the inquest was unfair and the limited form of verdict returned by the jury.

Amid fears of a potentially perverse verdict being reached in such a contentious inquest, the judge held that a new tribunal into Pearse Jordan's death should sit without a jury.

The PSNI was also held responsible for a delay of up to 11 years in holding the original hearing.

A £7,500 compensation award was subsequently made to the Jordan family.

A wide-ranging challenge to the ruling is under way at the Court of Appeal.

Further error

But following initial submissions by counsel for the chief constable, the three-judge panel concluded that the decision to quash the first inquest's findings was justified.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan agreed that the coroner had been wrong about the potential relevance of the Stalker/Sampson reports.

Deciding that a Police Ombudsman report into the PSNI shooting of Neil McConville in 2003 could not be deployed at the inquest amounted to a further error, the court held.

Mr Jordan's solicitor claimed the Court of Appeal verdict will have wider implications.

The solicitor said: "This is a tremendous vindication of the Jordan family in their challenge to the conduct of the inquest into Pearse's death.

"This ruling will also provide important guidance in relation to the deployment of similar fact evidence at inquests where members of the security forces have been involved in previous or subsequent lethal force incidents involving civilians."

He added: "The Jordan family have waited for almost 22 years for a full and fearless inquiry into the circumstances of their son's death and they now look forward to participating in a new inquest at which all of the relevant evidence will be explored with the witnesses."

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