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Thornton solicitor cautions against ‘hype’ over PSNI revelation

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Thornton solicitor cautions against ‘hype’ over PSNI revelation thumbnailHenry Thornton

THE solicitor acting for the family of the late Henry Thornton has said that he does not wish to "hype up" a revelation that the PSNI did not disclose all material to the inquest into the death of the Silverbridge man.

Mr Thornton was shot dead by the British Army in Belfast in 1971. He was working in the city at the time, and was driving along the Springfield Road in a van with a work colleague when the shooting took place.

Driving past a police station, the van backfired which prompted a Sergeant Allan McVitie of the Parachute regiment to fire two shots at the van, killing 29-year-old, Father-of-six Mr Thornton.

Initially, the army issued a statement which claimed that two shots had been fired from the van, and the original verdict returned an open verdict.

However, another inquest, which concluded in June 2016 concluded that the shooting of Mr Thornton was not "necessary, reasonable or proportionate".

It has now emerged that completed inquests, such as that into the death of Mr Thornton, could be affected by the revelation that the PSNI did not disclose military intelligence material in its possession since 2007.

Speaking to the Democrat Mr Pádraig Ó Muirigh, solicitor said: "I don't want to hype families up around it, especially where Mrs Thornton is quite elderly.

"They got findings that they were satisfied with, and the thought of having to go back and do all that is a wee bit scary to be honest.

"It may be something that we come back to at a future date depending on what material exists.

"What we know is that there was an intelligence database and that the PSNI hadn't taken all the material from that and provided it in the disclosure process.

"The MOD obviously had a separate duty to do that, however, the PSNI have a duty to provide anything in their possession. So technically it was in their possession and all of that material hasn't been provided to the coroner.

"As I understand it, they are currently checking this matter. Whether any material was not forwarded, or we weren't provided with in that inquest - if so - the coroner will have to look at that".

If, in due course, additional material is forthcoming, then Mr Ó Muirigh explained that consideration will have to be given to the value of it.

"In very exceptional circumstances, it could mean that families would have to consider whether they want the matter to go back to a future coroner's court," he said.

"Given the outcome that the inquest had - that's why I've said it might be an exceptional situation where that indeed will happen.

"We did get disclosure material, but, however there is a duty there for that material to be examined and an assessment to be made of it".

Mr Ó Muirigh also said that the dramatic development, has, however, only added to the fears that families such as the Thornton's have about how inquests have been and continue to be handled.

"This isn't the first time that the families have had concerns in this case and many other cases around the PSNIs handling of legacy cases," said Mr Ó Muirigh.

"There has been serious criticism in recent court judgements about the PSNI, whether it be the Smyth judicial review or the Glennane judicial review.

"So families aren't confident at all that the PSNI or indeed the MOD are fully compliant with their disclosure obligations".

 

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