Northern Ireland

Loyalist murder victim's daughter wins High Court bid

A woman whose father was shot dead in 1982 has won the right to challenge a possible 10-year delay on a report into how police handled his murder.

Patrick Murphy, 63, was killed by loyalists in his shop at Mount Merrion Avenue, Belfast, in November 1982.

Patricia Bell, 67, went to court after she learned it could be 2025 - 21 years after her family lodged a complaint - before any report was completed.

Her lawyer described such a delay as "absolutely farcical".

Eleven years ago, in 2004, Mr Murphy's family lodged their case with the Police Ombudsman about how the police investigation into his killing was handled.

Last autumn, Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said his budget had been reduced by about £750,000.

This could mean delays lasting years in reports into allegations of collusion by police in almost 300 killings in the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

As a result of the delay in Mr Murphy's case, Ms Bell's lawyers lodged judicial review proceedings against both the Ombudsman's Office and the Department of Justice.

The claim is that the hold-up is unlawful and in breach of a statutory obligation to investigate.

Lawyers for Ms Bell argued that there had been failures to either prioritise the case or to provide sufficient resources for the watchdog to discharge its statutory duty within a reasonable time-frame.

Resisting the legal challenge, counsel for Justice Minister David Ford argued that December's Stormont House Agreement could be a "game-changer" in reducing delays.

The court was told this would deal with any backlog and reverse funding cuts.

A new historical investigations unit (HIU) taking over responsibility for examining legacy cases is expected to be in operation by next summer.

High Court judge, Mr Justice Treacy, was also told a budget of £150m would be made available over a five-year period.

However, in court in Belfast on Friday, a judicial review was granted and the case will progress to a full hearing later this year.

Outside court, Ms Bell's lawyer insisted budget cuts should not be a reason for holding up investigations into historic cases.

"The delay over a murder that occurred back in 1982 is absolutely farcical," Ms Bell's solicitor, Ciaran Toner of Finucane Toner Solicitors, said.

"My clients lodged their complaint with the Police Ombudsman's Office back in 2004, and yet they have been told that because of budgetary constraints they will have to wait for an investigative report until 2025."

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