Investment in legacy inquests welcomed

Kathleen Thompson.
Kathleen Thompson.

The daughter of a woman who was shot dead in the back garden of her Creggan home in the 1970’s has welcomed an initiative to speed up legacy inquests.

Minty Thompson, whose mother was shot in the yard of her Rathlin Gardens home in November 1971 by a soldier from the Royal Green Jackets, said that investment is needed for legacy inquests as the coroners office is ’really and truly under resourced’.

The Department of Justice announced the initiative to deal with outstanding cases last week.

A new Legacy Inquest Unit will be set up within the Coroners’ Service to process legacy inquests, under the remit of the Lord Chief Justice as President of Coroners Courts.

The unit will be supported by increased capacity in PSNI, the Public Prosecution Service and other justice agencies.

The cost of delivering the new inquest model has been estimated at £55 million over six years.

There are currently 52 legacy inquest cases relating to 93 deaths at various stages of the investigation and inquest process between the 1970s and 2000s.

An inquest into the death of Kathleen Thompson was opened in March 2018. However, the inquest has never concluded and has been hit by a series of delays.

Minty Thompson said that while her family are unlikely to benefit from the establishment of the Legacy Inquest Unit she hopes it ‘will make a great difference to other families’.

“Hopefully they won’t have to go through what we have had to go through.”

Ms. Thompson suggested money should be invested to help families cope with the inquest process.

“I believe that some of the investment should go towards the human side of things. These inquests are difficult for families - financially, and mentally. For many of them it is their only experience of being in a courtroom.

“Nothing can prepare you it and I think some of the funding should go towards helping families through it.”