The sister of teenager Patrick Crawford, believed to have been shot by the British army outside a Belfast hospital over 40 years ago, was last week granted exceptional funding by the Legal Services Agency NI for her legal team to deal with the fresh inquest into her brother’s tragic death.
Patrick Crawford, 15, was shot while walking through the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital on the 10th August 1975.
However, while the funding granted by the Legal Services Agency Northern Ireland last week allows the legal team to now pursue a date for the full hearing of the inquest, the funding required by Court Service to resource the inquest hearing remains politically locked down.
The death of Master Crawford is one of the pending legacy inquests reviewed by High Court appeal Judge Weir in January 2016 at Laganside Courthouse. At the only preliminary hearing in the case to take place to date, it was revealed that ballistics evidence suggested the teenager had been shot by a high velocity rifle, contradicting a confession gleaned from a man who claimed to have used a handgun. The family believe that Patrick was shot by a member of the British army stationed in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital.
It was also revealed that a pathologist commissioned by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Unit had found the trajectory of the bullet indicated it had been from an elevated position.
The original inquest in December 1979 recorded an open verdict. Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin QC granted a fresh inquest into Patrick’s death on the 23rd September 2015. Other than the review by Judge Weir on the 20th January 2016, there have been no further hearings in the matter.
It is anticipated that the inquest into Patrick Crawford’s death may not take place for another 2 years. The delay arises from the political refusal to unlock further resources for Court Service for progress and list Troubles related inquests for hearing.
At the time of the only review in the inquest in January 2016, Judge Weir said it was important to make progress in the historic case and to ensure that any vital evidence such as bullet fragments recovered from the scene were “carefully preserved”.
The Judge said in January 2016: “This happened in 1975. It was a long time ago, 40 years. Everyone can expect this will probably come in to be reviewed in a matter of months.”
Ms Maggie Crawford, sister of Patrick, said today;
“The fresh inquest was directed in September 2015. Here we are almost 2 years later with absolutely no progress. This is despite a senior judge confirming over 18 months ago that this case should be reviewed quickly.
The Lord Chief Justice met with us and other families in 2016 and told us his plans for progressing the Troubles related inquests. His plans require the unlocking of funding by our politicians so he can get the cases heard. It is a disgrace that there has been no political agreement on moving these inquests forward. There is not much point in the Court doing what it can for families if the politicians do not provide the support needed.
I am very concerned that elderly civilian witnesses with important evidence may die before the inquest is heard. We need some progress to restore our confidence in the court process and our politicians.”
HARTE COYLE COLLINS
9-15 QUEEN STREET