Northern Ireland

The Troubles: Inquest judge accuses MoD of advising soldiers to apply for anonymity

Laganside Courts
Image caption The judge made his comments during the second day of a two-week review into 56 legacy cases

A senior judge has accused the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of delaying court proceedings and inquests by routinely advising former soldiers called to give evidence to apply for anonymity.

Lord Justice Weir said that while there were some genuine and appropriate cases for anonymity, many of the applications were a "lot of dross".

He spoke during the second day of a two-week review into 56 legacy cases.

The cases involve 95 deaths where inquests have still to be heard.

These cases include some of the most controversial killings during the Troubles.

The judge, one of the most senior in Northern Ireland, made the comments after being told a former soldier called to give evidence about a murder in Belfast in 1973 might seek anonymity.

Eyewitness

"Why on earth would he want anonymity?" he asked.

A barrister for the MoD said he could not answer as he was not aware of the full details.

The case mentioned is that of Daniel Carson, a 29-year-old Catholic shot dead by the Ulster Volunteer Force in the Shankill area of Belfast in November 1973.

The soldier at the centre of the dispute was one of the first to arrive on the scene of the shooting.

Lawyers for Mr Carson's family want to question him about a claim by an eyewitness that she told the soldiers who the gunman was.

Image caption The judge suggested the MoD were responsible for 'futile applications' for anonymity

No one has ever been charged in connection with the murder.

When told that it was possible the soldier might want his identity concealed, Lord Justice Weir said the legal system was being weighed down with "completely futile applications".

He added: "I often think that if people did not cry wolf so often, you might be more prepared to listen to them when the wolf actually arrives."

The judge said the applications led to unnecessary and lengthy delays in court proceedings, and suggested the MoD was responsible.

"Ordinary people living in England don't go to bed at night thinking about anonymity and screening," he said.

"The idea has to come from somewhere, and to my mind it comes all too frequently and inappropriately."

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