PSNI failed to disclose military intelligence on overlooked database

Legacy inquests may have to be reopened as military intelligence held by police for more than a decade was not passed to the coroner.

Feb 2, 2018

Legacy inquests may have to be reopened as military intelligence held by police for more than a decade was not passed to the coroner. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was unaware it held the Ministry of Defence (MoD) database since 2007, according to a statement from the Coroner’s Service. This meant the force’s disclosure unit did not search it when compiling intelligence for legacy inquests – instead searching its own database and another shared with the MoD. Presiding Coroner Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan only became aware of the database’s existence in December. The force will now search the database for comparison with material supplied by the MoD and the coroner will decide whether each one should be reviewed to see that all disclosure obligations were satisfied. Mrs Justice Keegan said: “The Presiding Coroner takes this opportunity to assure the families involved in legacy inquests which are listed for hearing this calendar year are on track and should be capable of being heard in accordance with planned timescales, and assures all those involved in these cases that every step will be taken to ensure that all disclosure obligations are properly discharged in all cases.” The PSNI has assured the Coroner’s Service that that it will continue to cooperate in all matters relating to legacy inquests. The MoD stated that it has always been fully compliant with legal and statutory duties to disclose material. Padraig Ó Muirigh, who represented families in several inquests, said the revelation raises “serious question marks” over the PSNI’s handling of legacy cases. “The families I represent have no confidence in the PSNI, or indeed MoD, fulfilling their obligations with respect to legacy inquests an consideration should be given to some independent oversight of the disclosure process,” he added. “As a matter of urgency it must be clarified by the coroner’s office whether all PSNI disclosure obligations were discharged in those inquests which have concluded and all necessary steps need to be taken to ensure all legal obligations are met in relation to future inquests.”

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