18 March 2005


Court rejects bid to see files on lawyer's murder

18/03/2005 - 17:29:42

A human rights group today lost a High Court bid to gain access to files on the murder of lawyer Rosemary Nelson.

The Belfast-based Committee for the Administration of Justice was seeking papers from Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s probe into claims the RUC ignored threats against Mrs Nelson.

Although Mrs O’Loan had briefed the CAJ on her inquiry, the organisation applied for a judicial review after other confidential documents were refused by her team and police.

In his ruling the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr, stressed the applicants should only be given access if they could show the Ombudsman had not been thorough enough.

He said: “I am satisfied that they have not done so.

“As I have said the Ombudsman’s office was prepared to go to significant lengths to involve the applicants at all material stages of the investigation.

“They have been open to suggestion and comment and have met representatives of CAJ on a number of occasions.

“This approach betokens a willingness to listen and to reassure.

“Judged objectively, I consider that it constitutes proper procedures for ensuring the accountability of agents of the state.”

Mrs Nelson, a high-profile lawyer who represented nationalist residents during the Drumcree marching crisis, was killed by loyalist terrorists in a booby-trap car bomb attack at her home in Lurgan, Co Armagh in March 1999.

It emerged at an earlier court hearing that the ferocity of the intimidation she faced included a letter sent to her with the chilling message: “We have you in our sights you republican bastard, we will teach you a lesson RIP.

Allegations that police failed to investigate the threats prompted Mrs O’Loan to launch an inquiry which is due to be completed later this year.

A public inquiry into the killing is also due to begin next month following recommendations by Canadian Judge Peter Cory.

The CAJ, where Mrs Nelson sat on the executive committee, had insisted it should be allowed to see papers including relevant correspondence between the RUC and Northern Ireland Office.

The organisation declined to make any comment after today’s ruling.

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said the decision would be studied as she prepared to reveal her findings.

He said: “We will look at what the judge has said with a view to establishing when we can publish the main findings from our report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Rosemary Nelson.”

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