By David Young, PA
A coroner has accused the PSNI of ignoring a court direction related to an inquest into the murder of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan.
Coroner Patrick McGurgan branded the PSNI’s failure to respond to his request for an update on the disclosure of sensitive evidence files as “very, very unsatisfactory”.
Mr McGuigan, a father-of-nine, was shot in the Short Strand in Belfast in August 2015.
His murder prompted a political crisis at Stormont amid claims IRA members were involved in the killing.
A full inquest is planned for March 2023 but, ahead of that, material related to the shooting must be security vetted and distributed to the legal parties involved.
Police are currently examining sensitive material prior to a hearing in October that will consider any applications they might make to redact evidence on public interest immunity (PII) grounds.
At a previous preliminary hearing, Mr McGurgan had directed that the PSNI send him a written update on progress.
At the latest hearing on Friday, the coroner was told that no update had been received.
A lawyer representing the PSNI, John Rafferty, was then asked why two files of sensitive material that had been due to be delivered to the coroner’s office for examination had not arrived.
Mr Rafferty said there had been a “logistical issue”, claiming that no-one had contacted the PSNI to organise the collection.
“As your honour knows, it simply can’t be left at the front desk, so it’s simply a logistical issue,” he said. “And I think neither side was talking to each other and that explains why it hadn’t been brought down.”
The lawyer insisted the required preparatory work ahead of October’s PII hearing would be completed in time.
Lawyer for Mr McGuigan’s family, Laura McMahon, raised concerns over the PSNI’s approach.
“I just I have to express the next of kin’s disappointment,” she said. “They [the PSNI] were given four weeks to provide an update, the update we say is not satisfactory.
“It’s basically saying that there’s no change from the last time. We are concerned that the timetable will eventually slip on this matter.”
Mr McGurgan expressed his frustration. “I don’t know what the point of me making directions is whenever they are just totally ignored, quite frankly,” he said.
“I mean it’s all very, very unsatisfactory. If this was in any other court, there would be costs being awarded against people.
“I don’t care what you have to do over the summer. I don’t care – no holidays, that’s a matter for you. If you take the briefs you need the work done. So, make sure it’s done.”
The shooting of Mr McGuigan followed the murder of ex-IRA commander Jock Davison in the Markets area of the city three months earlier.
Mr Davison and Mr McGuigan had been involved in a personal dispute. Police believe Mr McGuigan’s killers suspected him of involvement in Mr Davison’s death.
Mr McGuigan’s death led then PSNI chief constable Sir George Hamilton to state that the Provisional IRA still existed and some of its members were involved in the murder.
He said there was no evidence the killing was sanctioned by the organisation.
The killing led to a period of instability at Stormont with DUP ministers engaging in a series of rolling resignations in protest at the IRA’s alleged involvement in the shooting.