The Springhill Inquest continued today, Tuesday the 7th of November. No witnesses were called; instead, Coroner Scoffield heard legal arguments regarding criminal background checks into military and civilian witnesses.
In February 2023 the MoD requested that civilian witnesses undergo criminal record and intelligence checks. Justice Scoffield provisionally allowed the request within strict parameters and with the provision that the issue would be argued in further detail at a later date. Today he heard the issue in full.
Karen Quinlivan KC, representing the family of 13-year-old victim Margaret Gargan, made several salient arguments against the MoD’s attempts to weaponize ‘bad character evidence’ against civilian witnesses. She highlighted the importance of equal treatment of civilian and military witnesses, before explaining how evidence from the disputed intelligence and record checks would aid the coroner in assessing whether the soldiers discharged their weapons lawfully.
There was audible discontent from the victims’ families when the MoD’s representative, who used his cross-examinations of previous civilian witnesses to insinuate that the entire Springhill/Westrock community is a group of violent terrorists, called Ms Quinlivan’s request for soldiers’ records a “smear campaign.”
In addition to the parties’ contention about equal treatment of witnesses, there is also a concern that the checks may not be completed in time for Justice Scoffield to conclude the inquest by the Legacy Bill’s May 1st deadline.
The coroner hopes to reach a decision on the issue by the end of next week. In the meantime, the inquest will continue tomorrow with civilian witnesses.