The Secretary of State has today written to the Attorney General for Northern Ireland (AGNI) John Larkin QC, to inform him that she has issued a certificate under Section 14(2) of the Coroners Act (Northern Ireland) 1959, in relation to the request for fresh inquests into the deaths at Loughgall on 8 May 1987. The Secretary of State is satisfied that there is material held by the government which is both relevant to the decision whether to open fresh inquests in these cases, and which is national security sensitive.
The effect of this certificate is that the Advocate General for Northern Ireland (the Attorney General for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright QC) will now consider these requests and take the decision on whether to direct that fresh inquests are conducted.
This was previously incorrectly reported by some media outlets as the Secretary of State “blocking” inquests into these deaths. This is untrue, and does not accurately represent the Secretary of State’s role in this process. The effect of the legislation, and the role of the Secretary of State, is simply to make sure that the appropriate law officer is able to take the decision, with all of the information available, independent of government.
The Advocate General is an independent law officer in the same way as the AGNI: he will make a decision independent of government. All of the options available to the AGNI will be available to the Advocate General, including a decision to direct that an inquest should be held. The Secretary of State’s decision in no way reflects a lack of trust or confidence in the role of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.
The Secretary of State, having fulfilled the requirements placed on her by the legislation, has no further role in to play in relation to the decision whether to direct these inquests.