High Court in Northern Ireland to decide whether Omagh bomb hearing will be held in secret

01 Jan 2018

Public Law and Judicial Review

The High Court of Justice in Ireland will today hear an application for judicial review relating to the Omagh bombing with took place in Ireland in 1998; in what will be the first such legal bid in judicial review proceedings in Northern Ireland.

Mr Gallagher whose son died in the blast, is resisting the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s application to have a closed material procedure (CMP) declaration on the grounds that the case involves national security-sensitive material.

Mr Gallagher is arguing that a CMP declaration would not result in the fair and effective administration of justice, and that there should be an open hearing into whether he is entitled to a full independent investigation into the preventability of the 29 deaths caused by the bombing.

The Court will consider the Government’s obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights which concerns whether the UK Government knew or ought to have known in advance about the bombing and whether it failed to take reasonable steps to respond to the risk and prevent loss of life. Furthermore, the Court will look at whether the preventability of the deaths has since been properly investigated.

Article 2 dictates that the Government has a substantive duty:

“to take preventive operational measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk from the criminal acts of another individual…”

And an investigative obligation:

“Where the victim has died and it is arguable that there has been a breach of [the substantive duty under] article 2…”

The granting of a CMP declaration to the Secretary of State will hinge on the Government’s ability to show that it cannot defend the judicial review in an open hearing.

Ashley Underwood QC of Cornerstone Barristers is acting for Mr Gallagher. Click here for further information on this case.