The official investigation into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane was “ineffective” and failed to meet the required human rights standards, the supreme court has ruled.
Five justices, in a unanimous judgment, said the investigation carried out by Sir Desmond de Silva in 2011 was frustrated by his inability to compel witnesses to testify about the killing.
The Supreme Court did not, however, order a public inquiry into the killing — one of the most notorious of the Troubles — and has left it up to the government to decide whether further investigation is needed.
The 39-year-old was shot 14 times in front of his family in 1989 by loyalists in an attack found to have involved collusion with the state.
John Finucane, Mr Finucane’s son, a campaigner and solicitor, said today: “The [British government] now knows that it cannot conceal the truth any longer. Today they have been told this by the highest court in the land.
“It is time for the murder of Pat Finucane to be properly & publicly investigated in a public inquiry. Nothing less will suffice.”
Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine claimed the Government unlawfully “reneged” on a promise to hold a public inquiry into the killing, when former prime minister David Cameron ordered an independent review.
“[The Irish government] position remains that an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane should be established, in line with commitments made by British [and Irish government] at Weston Park, 2001,” Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, said.
An investigation by Sir Desmond de Silva QC, a former UN war crimes prosecutor, had found “shocking” levels of state collusion involving MI5, the army and the police. At the time, however, he did rule out an “overarching state conspiracy”.
At a hearing in June, Barry Macdonald QC said that “loyalist terrorist organisations were infiltrated, resourced and manipulated in order to murder individuals identified by the army and the police as suitable for assassination”.
Mr Macdonald said this policy was “widened” to include lawyers such as Mr Finucane, who represented a number of high-profile Republicans during his stint as a human rights lawyer.
“The police, the army and the security service, MI5, are all implicated in a policy that entailed identifying lawyers with their clients and legitimising them as targets for assassination,” he said, adding that it amounted to “state-sponsored terrorism”.