Families launch legal challenge against British Government's controversial Legacy Bill

Families launch legal challenge against British Government's controversial Legacy Bill

THE FAMILIES of seven people killed during the Troubles have launched a legal challenge to the British Government's controversial Legacy Bill.

The Bill passed through parliament this week after the House of Lords dropped its opposition and is now awaiting Royal Assent.

Opposed by all major political parties in Northern Ireland, the Bill seeks to do away with investigations and inquests into Troubles-era cases.

It will instead offer conditional immunity for those who cooperate with an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

In a statement, Madden & Finucane Solicitors said it had lodged judicial review proceedings in the High Court for six families 'bereaved through State violence'.

It added that it will challenge the lawfulness of the legislation and its compatibility with international human rights standards.

The firm is representing family members of Kathleen Thompson, Gervaise McKerr, Gerard Casey, Sam Marshall, Pearse Jordan and brothers Gerard and Rory Cairns.


Ms Thompson, 47, was shot dead by a member of the Royal Green Jacket regiment in Derry on November 6, 1971.

In 2022, a coroner rejected the evidence of a former soldier who killed Kathleen Thompson and referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Mr McKerr, 31, was shot dead near Lurgan on November 11, 1982 when members of an elite firearms unit of the RUC fired more than 100 rounds into a car he was driving.

Two passengers in the car also died — all three men were unarmed.

An inquest into their deaths has never been concluded.

In May 2001, the European Court of Human Rights found the UK to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights because no effective investigation had ever been conducted into Mr McKerr's death.

Gerard Casey, 29, was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries on April 4, 1989 in Rasharkin, Co. Antrim.

In 2007, his inquest verdict was quashed by the High Court and in July 2010 the Attorney General for Northern Ireland ordered a new inquest.

In 2022, the Police Ombudsman published a report which found 'collusive behaviour' between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in his murder.

Mr Marshall, 31, was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries on March 7, 1990 having just left Lurgan RUC station after signing bail.

His killers managed to escape the area despite the presence of several armed undercover British soldiers.

Mr Jordan, 22, was shot dead by the RUC on the Falls Road in Belfast on November 25, 1992.

In 2016, a coroner formally referred two former RUC officers to the Public Prosecution Service to consider whether they should be prosecuted for perjury or perverting the course of justice arising from their evidence to the inquest.

No prosecutorial decision has yet been taken.

Gerard Cairns, 22, and Rory Cairns, 18, were murdered in their Co. Armagh home by the mid-Ulster UVF in October 1993.

In 2019, a loyalist paramilitary admitted on a BBC Spotlight programme that he and others had conspired to murder every male member of the Cairns household and that intelligence had been received directly from the RUC.

In May 2023, a file was submitted to the DPP.

Legal action

The statement from Madden & Finucane said it will also be lodging applications for families directly affected by the legislation to the European Convention on Human Rights in Strasbourg over the coming weeks.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously said the Irish Government would consider legal action if the Legacy Bill became law.

Concerns over the Bill have been raised by the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights organisation, and Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.