Sean Brown Inquest Update/ACC Drew Harris intervention

26 May 2015

In May the 26th(!) preliminary hearing took place at the Coroners Court in Belfast into the 1997 murder of GAA official Sean Brown in Bellaghy. No date has been set for a full hearing and it is probable that the inquest will not now take place this year despite repeated attempts by the coroner.

Delays in disclosure of files by the PSNI let to the boycott and eventual cancellation of a Policing Partnership meeting in Magherafelt earlier this year following a call from the Brown family and the PFC. Some limited progress has been made in the disclosure of files though at the April hearing counsel for the PSNI announced that another large tranche of documents had been discovered during the closure of Maghera PSNI. These relate to one of the suspects in the murder and this will cause further delay as they will have to be inspected.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph on May 18 PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris was asked about the issue of legacy inquests. His answer says it all about the attitude of the PSNI to the ongoing delays.

If we have resources they should be focussed on reconciliation rather than resources that have to go into this. Going forward it is not possible in a lifetime to get through this’. 

This senior PSNI officer goes on to suggest that he

is not sure how much further it [Coroner’s Inquests] will take us.’

This is quite a disturbing statement for a senior officer to make in respect of his legal duty to service an inquest with all relevant documentation. Small wonder that the Brown, Dillon, Rowntree, Ballymurphy and other inquests are dragging on when this is the attitude within the PSNI. And what does he mean by suggesting that these same resources should be diverted to ‘reconciliation’. Should families attend ecumenical services instead of inquests?

The sooner all legacy issues are transferred away from the PSNI the better. Justice Minister David Ford has recently announced that judges have been assigned to hear inquests. Watch this space.