Law Soc urges NI murder probe

LEADING human rights lawyers have called for an immediate judicial inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast lawyer Patrick Finucane.

In a report released last week, the Law Society's international human rights working party urges the court to probe the cause of Finucane's death and examine the possible role played by security forces.

The report, prepared by Bindman & Partners senior partner Geoffrey Bindman, Deighton & Guedalla partner Jane Deighton and acting working party chair David Jefferson, also recommends the immediate revocation of emergency legislation.

The report claims that the preponderance of opinion within Northern Ireland – with the exception of the RUC – is that emergency legislation is “no longer appropriate” and police powers in the country should be the same as those in the rest of the UK.

“There are concerns about the possible resumption of terrorism but the ordinary criminal law, as laid down in Pace (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act) and other legislation, is adequate to deal with it,” says the report. “The restoration of normality in Northern Ireland should be reflected in its legal system.”

In its discussion of the Finucane murder, the report says there is “overwhelming” evidence that the lawyer was murdered because of his work defending IRA suspects.

“His murder was a direct blow to the administration of justice in Northern Ireland,” the report says.

“We believe that he is the only solicitor in either Great Britain or Northern Ireland who has been murdered because his professional work has been regarded as politically relevant.”

Other recommendations in the report include the immediate restoration of the right to silence in Northern Ireland, England and Wales, and the establishment of an annual Patrick Finucane Human Rights Award.

The award, funded by the Law Society, would counter the fears of Finucane's widow Geraldine, who has shown concern that her husband's murder could deter young lawyers from taking on human rights work.