Springhill Inquest Tuesday 21st February 2023

By Paul Butler

The second day of the Springhill inquest was taken up mostly with counsel for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) outlining the legal arguments in relation to disclosure. Mr Aiken for the MoD argued that the inquest should seek material including any intelligence information regarding all civilian witnesses who will give evidence at the inquest. This should include whether or not they were members of paramilitary organisations and if they were involved in any unlawful activity on the 9th July 1972 the day the five victims were killed.

The MoD’s approach to this inquest follows a similar path to other inquests where British soldiers have been accused of using unjustified lethal force. That is they will attempt to undermine the credibility of  both the victims and those witnesses who give evidence at their inquests. The MoD’s strategy clearly seems to be to try and undermine the evidence of civilian witnesses who give a different evidential picture to what British soldiers said in their statements.  Furthermore, the MoD argued that ‘criminal’ records’ of any of the witnesses involved in the inquest should be disclosed as well. They also said that the inquest needs to try and establish who were the ‘armed civilians’ that were firing at the army that day.

Counsel for the PSNI Peter Coll in response to the MoD arguments said that they are “neutral” in terms of providing disclosure as sought by MoD.  This was challenged by counsel for the families Karen Quinlivan who stated that when they seek disclosures “from this side of the fence” there’s always the arguments made about an inability to do so because the PSNI “lack resources” yet the extent of where this unlimited trawl (request) for intelligence seems to elicit the reply from PSNI lawyer says they’re “neutral”.

Karen Quinlivan said that it was important that criminal records (including any disciplinary records) of those soldiers who were involved in the killings were disclosed. She also  argued that records of involvement in other shootings by those soldiers present and involved in the Springhill/Westrock shootings is relevant. A trawl for unlimited intelligence in relation to civilian witnesses is not the same. What the MoD are looking goes beyond what is normal in these circumstances she said.

The Inquest continues today