Challenge to overturn verdict in Jordan inquest

By RFJ Caseworker Paul Butler

In the High Court on Thursday 22nd June, the Jordan family applied for leave to have a judicial review to overturn the coroner’s verdict into their son’s death. Mrs Justice Keegan was the sitting judge hearing the leave application. Mr Justice Horner, the presiding Coroner, at the Jordan inquest handed down his verdict on the 7th November 2016.  The Jordan family welcomed the Coroner’s conclusion that the PSNI/RUC failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the use of lethal force. However, they were disappointed that the Coroner failed to conclude that the shooting of their son Pearse was unlawful. RfJ have supported the Jordan family throughout the years in their campaign for the truth.

Pearse Jordan was shot dead by the RUC on 25 November 1992 on the Falls Road just after 5pm. He was later claimed by the IRA as a volunteer on active service. The Jordan case has been the subject of 24 judicial reviews, 14 appeals to the Court of Appeal, two hearings in the House of Lords and one hearing before the European Court of Human Rights.

Setting out the case to overturn the verdict of the Coroner, Barry McDonald QC said there was an obligation on the Coroner to reach a fair result based on the evidence before him. Whilst there are situations where the coroner is not able to reach a comprehensive decision, in the Jordan case there was clear evidence that he could reach a decision. There is no explanation in the Coroner’s judgement why he couldn’t conclude based on the balance of probabilities that Pearse Jordan had been unlawfully killed.

Barry McDonald continued,

‘The RUC officers have not given a true account as to how Pearse Jordan was shot dead.  The coroner did not believe the RUC officers version of events. If the balance of probabilities is applied in this case then the coroner should have found against the RUC.  The coroner said that he had conflicting evidence from both sides but what he needed to do was conclude in the case. It is arguable that the coroner got it wrong.’

Karen Quinlivan QC also for the Jordan family said,

‘The coroner had disregarded without evaluation or explanation, the evidence of the forensic scientist who gave evidence about ballistics to the inquest regarding Sergeant A, the RUC officer who shot Pearse Jordan. The objective scientific evidence undermines the account of Sergeant A’s version of events.’  

Several of the RUC officers who gave evidence at the Jordan inquest had been involved in the shoot-to-kill incidents from a decade before.  These killings were part of the Stalker and Sampson investigations into allegations of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy by the RUC. The officers had deliberately told lies about their part in these so called ‘shoot to kill’ deaths. The same officers subsequently perverted the course of justice in a murder inquiry and thereafter perjured themselves in the Jordan inquest.  

Tony McGleenan QC, representing the PSNI/RUC said the challenge to the coroner’s verdict was against the tide of judgements coming from Strasbourg. The coroner had exercised his powers under section 31 of the Coroner’s Act in that he was unable to arrive at a definitive conclusion in the case.  The inquest system is only a fact-finding process one and the coroner had given a verdict that was the best outcome in the case. The court should not interfere in the judge’s fact-finding role.  The coroner had acted within domestic and convention law.  Tony McGleenan added that seeking leave for a judicial review is really looking for a different outcome from what the coroner ruled.

Mrs Justice Keegan reserved her judgement in the case.