Belfast Telegraph

Government set to gag Finucane report
Demands for public inquiry into murder gather pace

By Chris Thornton, Political Correspondent
14 September 2004

The Government indicated today that it will still hold back blanked-out parts of a damning report on the murder of Pat Finucane, in spite of loyalist Ken Barrett's conviction.

As demands for a public inquiry into the case were renewed by Barrett's guilty plea, the NIO said it would need to take legal advice before releasing any new parts of the Cory Report.

When it was published earlier this year, the report by retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory gave details of collusion surrounding the 1989 murder of the Belfast solicitor. Judge Cory concluded that a public inquiry should be held.

But sections of the report were left blanked out - including large portions that the Government said were being held back because they could have prejudiced Barrett's trial.

Some of that information emerged in court yesterday, including the revelation that UDR security was so lax that Barrett walked out of a barracks in Belfast with two rifles and pistols in 1989.

In a recording taped by the Metropolitan Police, Barrett hinted that there was high-level collusion in the theft because someone had switched off security cameras while he signed out the guns. "Do people think that just happens?" he told undercover police.

One of the weapons was later used in the Ormeau Road bookies attack that left five people dead.

Barrett yesterday admitted being the gunman who shot Mr Finucane more than a dozen times in February 1989. He will be sentenced to life in prison on Friday, but could be released in eight months under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The gunman's guilty plea means a full trial will not be held - so other elements raised in Judge Cory's report were not heard in court.

The Government says a public inquiry into the Finucane murder will be held at some stage, but refuses to start the process because it says the inquiry could prejudice criminal trials in the case.

After Barrett is sentenced on Friday, there will be no active court action in the case, but the Director of Public Prosecutions is still considering a number of files submitted by Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens.

Asked if the redacted, blanked out, parts of the Cory Report could be published in the meantime, a NIO spokesman said the Government "would need to consider" whether the material could influence any potential court cases.

"The Cory reports were published in full save only those redactions necessary to safeguard national security and the criminal justice process, and to protect individuals' rights to life and privacy," he said.

"Any redactions made on national security or right to life or privacy grounds would be unaffected by the conclusion of the Barrett trial. The Government would need to consider whether any of the redactions made to avoid prejudicing the Barrett trial could similarly prejudice any other prosecutions.

"This is not a matter for the Government and we would need to take advice from the prosecuting authorities."

Mr Finucane's family has called for an immediate move to a public inquiry because many questions in the case remain unanswered.

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