Jury dilemma for Derry Troubles inquest

Manus Deery.
Manus Deery.

A key decision on whether to call a jury to hold a legacy inquest in Derry could have major implications for other cases from the Troubles, a coroner has said.

Jim Kitson is due to make a decision within a month on whether to call a panel of members of the public for the probe into how a teenager shot dead in Derry’s Bogside by the British Army in 1972 died.

The army has argued that Manus Deery (15) died as the result of a bullet ricochet and there is no suggestion he was, in any way, involved in terrorism, a lawyer for the MoD told a coroners’ court preliminary hearing in Belfast today.

The coroner said he wanted to take time to consider whether to call a jury.

“It will have implications for not only Manus Deery but other cases,” he said.

An inquest is scheduled for April and is likely to be held in Derry. A number of preliminary issues have to be resolved, the most important whether to call a jury, a lawyer for the coroner said.

The High Court has ruled on the issue in highly contested Troubles cases. It was called to issue general guidance after an inquest panel failed to agree on key aspects of the death of IRA man Pearse Jordan, shot in disputed circumstances in west Belfast in 1992.

Mr Kitson has to consider this judgment before the Manus Deery inquest can be held.

The MoD and PSNI is neutral on whether to call a jury as a point of principle, Martin Wolfe QC told the inquest.

Manus Deery was shot dead in the Bogside in May 1972.

The Army maintains that a soldier in a lookout post on Derry’s Walls fired at what appeared to be a gunman about 200 metres away, missed, and that the ricochet fatally injured the teenager.

The teenager’s family have always disputed the Army’s version.