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17 January 2002 Edition

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Coroner grants anonymity to Jordan killers

In a controversial decision on Tuesday 15 January, Belfast coroner John Leckey granted anonymity to all the RUC and British Army witnesses involved in the operation that lead to the death of IRA Volunteer Pearse Jordan in November 1992.

In a statement, Peter Madden of solicitors Madden and Finucane, who represents the Jordan family said "this is an incredible decision. The coroner himself has admitted that no harm has ever come to members of the security forces whose names have been known in court proceedings in Northern Ireland even at the height of the Troubles. To grant anonymity to all security force witnesses, not only those responsible for the killing of Pearse Jordan but also to the other military witnesses, is unbelievable and hardly assures the family that they will find out from the inquest about how and why their son was killed".

The coroner's decision comes just days after he instructed his office to begin legal proceedings against the RUC/PSNI for failing to produce documents for the inquest into IRA Volunteer Pearse Jordan.

The inquest into Jordan's killing has been repeatedly adjourned since it was first brought before the Coroner's Court in January 1995. It reopened last Wednesday, 9 January, for a preliminary hearing at which it was disclosed that the RUC/PSNI have submitted just one file on the Jordan killing as evidence.

With the inquest proper due to be heard next month, the coroner's office is now undertaking legal action against the RUC\PSNI.

Branding the RUC\PSNI refusal to submit their documents to the court "a disgrace", Leckey went on to say the refusal was all the more surprising given that he made a written request for the material and that the RUC\PSNI had given him a written assurance that all documents would be disclosed.

Volunteer Pearse Jordan was shot dead by the RUC on 25 November 1992 on the Falls Road. At the time of the killing he was unarmed.

Last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the British government in respect of the Jordan killing and awarded the Jordan family £10,000 in damages.

The European Court also ruled in favour of the families of the Volunteers killed in Loughgall and the widow of Anthony Hughes, a civilian killed in the British Army fire in the Loughgall ambush in 1987.

In a third case, the European Court found against the British government over the killing of Patrick Shanaghan by the UDA in June 1991.

In those cases, the Court ruled that Britain had infringed the human rights of the families of those killed by failing to carry out a proper investigation into the killings.

The Court decided that the rule, which means that inquests in the Six Counties can't compel witnesses to testify in person, is an infringement of the Human Rights Convention. Despite that ruling, however, it is almost certain that the inquest, if it does go ahead next month, will be conducted under present Six-County legislation.

Meanwhile, Jordan family lawyer Seamus Treacy has uncovered the existence of a special unit within the RUC\PSNI in charge of disclosing RUC\PSNI files in controversial court cases. Treacy said that it had now been established that a separate disclosure unit was operating as part of the Special Branch.
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