Northern Ireland

Jean McConville: family clears first High Court battle

Jean McConville
Image caption Jean McConville disappeared in December 1972, after wrongly being accused of acting as an informer

The family of Jean McConville have cleared the first stage in a High Court battle to gain access to the findings of a police investigation.

The mother-of-10 was abducted and murdered by the IRA in December 1972.

The paramilitary organisation wrongly accused her of acting as an informer.

Mrs McConville's children were granted leave to seek a judicial review over the non-disclosure of a Historical Enquiries Team's draft report into her killing.

On Wednesday, a judge ruled that they had established an arguable case.

Acknowledging their "enormous suffering", the judge said that the family had "waited extremely patiently, over an unconscionable period of time, to discover more about the circumstances of their mother's disappearance and death".

Mrs McConville was seized from her home at Divis flats in west Belfast in December 1972.

Following her abduction, she was shot dead and then secretly buried. Her body was discovered on a County Louth beach in 2003.

Thee years later, the Police Ombudsman concluded that a proper investigation into the murder was not carried out for more than two decades.

Seven of Mrs McConville's children are involved in the legal action aimed at forcing the Police Service of Northern Ireland to publish the contents of the HET report.

Counsel for the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton stressed that the findings will be made available once there is no risk of prejudicing any prosecutions.

But the McConville family insisted they would be happy to see a redacted version, if that ensured no threat to criminal proceedings.

Their barrister argued that any police shortcomings identified in the report should not be used as a reason for continuing to withhold it.

Failings

He cited claims by the victim's son, James McConville, that the police, in the guise of the HET, are continuing to fail the family.

Mr McConville, in an affidavit, said: "Our lives have been devastated by the murder of our mother and the widespread failure of the authorities to investigate."

He added that provision of the report would help achieve a resolution and closure.

Leave to apply for a judicial review was granted on grounds that non-disclosure was allegedly unreasonable and in breach of an Article 2 obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Commending the family for their approach to the legal challenge, the judge added: "No-one could possibly accuse the applicants in this case of rushing into proceedings, or expecting a miracle or anything of that type."

The case will now advance to a full judicial review hearing later this year.

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