Court finds that Chief Constable has not demonstrated practical independence on the part of the PSNI Legacy Investigations Branch


Re: McQuillan v Police Service of Northern Ireland [2019] NICA

In this appeal the appellant sought a declaration that the proposed further investigation by the Legacy Investigation Branch of the PSNI into the death of her sister, Jean Smyth, conflicts with the requirements of ECHR, art 2, because the LIB lacks the requisite independence required to perform an art 2 compliant investigation into the death.

The Court held that the ECHR, art 2 obligation applies to pre-Human Rights Act deaths. It considered that art 2 does apply to further investigation and therefore those carrying out the further investigative measures must be independent from those implicated in the events. Under the procedural arm of art 2, there is an obligation on the Chief Constable to proceed promptly, and consideration of the independence of LIB should be directed to a consideration of the hierarchical, institutional or practical independence of the institution concerned.

The Court concluded, granting declarations that the Chief Constable is obliged to conduct the further investigations into the death of Jean Smyth in a way which satisfies the State’s ECHR, art 2 procedural obligation, and that he is bound to promptly take steps to secure the practical independence of the investigators so that they have the capacity to carry out an art 2 compliant effective investigation.

Hugh Southey QC and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh  were involved in this case.