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6 March 2003 Edition

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Thompson family wins judicial review

The family of a Derry mother who was shot dead by British soldiers in 1971 has welcomed a High Court decision to grant them a judicial review into her killing.

Kathleen Thompson was shot as she stood in the garden of her home in the Creggan estate in Derry on 6 November 1971. In 1980, nearly ten years after her death, her family received a cheque for £84.07p in "compensation".

Kathleen's family and friends are adamant there was never a proper investigation into her killing, and three years ago they approached the Pat Finucane Centre to ask for their support in persuing the case.

Since then, the family and their representatives have been given "the runaround" in their repeated attempts to view an RUC file alleged to contain details on the police investigation into the killing. In spite of assurances of its existence, the PSNI have yet to produce it.

The Thompson family was originally told them that no such file could be found, but hours before a televison program on the killing was due to be broadcast, the file myseteriously turned up. It then immediately "disappeared" again.

In October of 2002, the Thompson family, accompanied by representatives of the Pat Finucane Center, met with PSNI officers in the Strand Road Barracks in Derry and were assured that the file did indeed exist. They were also promised it would be disclosed to them a few days later.

When the Thompsons returned to the barracks on the prearranged date and time, the file was once again unavailable, and the family walked out in disgust.

On 18 February of this year, British Minister for Victims, Des Browne, stated that a full police investigation had, in fact, been carried out into Kathleen's death.

Solicitors acting on behalf of the family lodged a judicial review in the High Court, arguing that the British Sectretary Of State was under an obligation to carry out an Article two investigation as required by the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. Last week, the High Court issued its decision, ruling that there had been no effective investigation into the killing.

Although the British Secretary of State is expected to appeal the judgement, campaigners believe the decision marks a turning point that will have major implications for victims of state violence.

One of Kathleen's daughters, Minty Thompson, said she was "overjoyed" at the ruling.

Peter Madden, solicitor for the Thompson family said: "We launched these proceedings on behalf of the family after the Pat Finucane Centre and the Spotlight programme highlighted that the RUC/PSNI were unable to even trace the police investigation file into Mrs Thompson's death.

"It was clear to us that rather than investigate properly themselves how Mrs Thompson was killed, the RUC simply accepted what the soldiers' lawyers said happened, even after it became apparent that one soldier had admitted firing shots, suggesting that he was responsible for Mrs Thompson's death.

"Today's judgement reinforces the judgement of the Court of Appeal last month, for the family of Gervaise McKerr, that victims of state violence were denied any effective investigation into their deaths.

"The Secretary Of State must now act to provide all families with the Article Two complaint investigations they have been denied."

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