Northern Ireland

Pat Finucane 'sham process hid inquiry decision'

Pat Finucane Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Solicitor Pat Finucane was shot dead by loyalists at his north Belfast home in 1989

The government had already decided to rule out a public inquiry into the 1989 killing of solicitor Pat Finucane but staged a "sham process" to conceal this, the High Court has heard.

His widow is challenging PM David Cameron's decision in 2011 to instead commission a QC to review the case.

Her barrister said then-Secretary of State Owen Paterson "went through the motions" to try to avoid legal action.

He said managing political fall-out from Dublin and the US was the focus.

Mr Finucane was shot dead in front of his wife Geraldine and their children at their north Belfast home in February 1989. His murder has been surrounded by claims of security force collusion with the loyalist paramilitary killers.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Desmond de Silva with his report on the Pat Finucane case

The prime minister commissioned QC Sir Desmond de Silva to review all documents relating to the case and produce a narrative of what happened.

In December 2012 Sir Desmond's report confirmed agents of the state were involved in the murder and that it should have been prevented.

However, it concluded there had been "no overarching state conspiracy".

The Finucane family rejected the findings as a whitewash.

During a four-day judicial review hearing in Belfast - where judgement was expected to be reserved - it was claimed that the killing was part of a British state engagement in terrorism through loyalist groupings.

According to Mrs Finucane's case, the government unlawfully reneged on a commitment to hold a public inquiry.

Pledges to set up such a tribunal, based on the recommendation of retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, were made by a former Labour government in 2004 and reaffirmed in the following years, the court heard.

Counsel for the secretary of state argued that he was legally entitled to review any commitment by a previous administration.

Issues about cost and speed had to be taken into account when a further decision on how to deal with the case was taken following a six-year passage of time.

On Thursday, a barrister for Mrs Finucane said Mr Paterson had made it clear he was against any more public inquiries "full stop".

The barrister said that "an elaborate process of consultation" was carried out following legal advice.

"He had committed himself in opposition to having no more costly, open-ended inquiries," he said.

"They go through the motions."

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