The family of Thomas Aquinas Burns have been granted leave by the High Court in Belfast to challenge the original 1973 inquest verdict of “misadventure”. Thomas Burns was shot by a British soldier as he left the Glenpark Social Club in North Belfast on the 12th July 1972. He died from the gunshot the following day. The judicial review challenge will be heard by the High Court in January 2020.
Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Advocates, acting for Patricia Burns, daughter of Thomas, applied to the Attorney General for Northern Ireland for a fresh inquest in 2015. Further submissions were made by the solicitors in 2019 in relation to the verdict of misadventure found by inquest jury in April 1973. In his response in 2019 the Attorney General, Mr John Larkin QC, accepted that Thomas Burns was an innocent victim and that the verdict of misadventure was wrong in both fact and law but denied the family a fresh inquest on the basis that there was no usefulness to an inquest 47 years after their father was killed.
The family sought leave of the High Court by way of judicial review procedure to challenge the negative decision of the Attorney General. A hearing date for leave has now been fixed for the challenge for the 9th January 2020.
In 2013 the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) identified and liased with new witnesses, some of whom were British soldiers on duty in Glenpark Street and Louisa Street at the time Thomas Burs was killed. One of those soldiers witnessed the shooting. That witness confirmed to the HET that the statement which was purported to be his which was submitted to the 1973 inquest, was not in fact his evidence. He also reported that his recollection of the events and his location at the time Thomas Burns was shot were different from the information contained in the other soldiers’ statements. This new evidence called into doubt the veracity and validity of the statements provided by other soldiers at the time of the original inquest. Other new information from civilian witnesses was also uncovered by the HET. Both the HET and the Attorney General have now accepted that Thomas Burns was an entirely innocent victim of the Troubles.
Patricia Burns said on behalf of the family today;
“We need to re-write history for myself, my family and my children, and most importantly for my Daddy. We look forward to the Court hearing in January 2020. I intend to go to whatever lengths I have to to seek justice for our father.”
Patricia Coyle, solicitor for the Burns family, said today ;
“The 1973 inquest verdict of misadventure regarding Mr Burn’s killing is incorrect in fact and in law. The Attorney General has accepted this in correspondence. However he maintains that there is no usefulness in a fresh inquest. Given the new evidence contained in the HET Review, this cannot be either correct or appropriate. We are asking the High Court to review the fairness and reasonableness of the Attorney General’s decision to refuse a fresh inquest in the face of compelling new evidence and legal arguments. The shooting of Thomas Burns was a mindless assassination, not an accident or a reaction. The rule of law must apply and be upheld.”
The family of Thomas Burns are supported in their campaign for information, justice and accountability by their lawyers and Relatives for Justice. In November 2019 RFJ published a Report on the murder of Thomas Burns by the British Army on the 13th July 1972. Copies of the Report are available from RFJ.