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New inquest into death of man in Derry ‘not listed due to legislation deadline’

Patrick Duffy, 50, was shot dead by British soldiers at a house in the Brandywell area of Londonderry (Family handout/PA)
Patrick Duffy, 50, was shot dead by British soldiers at a house in the Brandywell area of Londonderry (Family handout/PA)

A fresh inquest into the death of a man shot dead in Londonderry in 1978 cannot be listed due to a legislative deadline, his family has said.

Patrick Duffy, 50, was shot multiple times in November 1978 at a house in the Brandywell area of Derry in an incident involving British soldiers.

A fresh inquest into his death was granted in 2019.

It is one of a number of inquests into incidents from Northern Ireland’s troubled past that must be heard by May 2024.

Review hearings over the last year have heard of a lengthy process in terms of obtaining the disclosure of documents from the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Duffy’s family has said they have been told the inquest cannot be listed for hearing to complete before a deadline imposed by new legacy legislation.

Under the Government’s controversial Legacy Act, all inquests into events from Northern Ireland’s troubled past which have not been completed by May will be transferred to a new body.

Mr Duffy’s family have campaigned for justice for their father’s killing for 41 years.

The inquest opened at Bishop Street court house in Derry on April 21, 2023 and heard evidence from the next of kin and an expert engineer before taking a break to allow for the disclosure process to complete.

The family said that in a written ruling issued on January 26, Coroner Fiona Bagnall said the inquest could not be listed to resume because the Ministry of Defence said it could not complete the disclosure process before May 1.

Meanwhile the Duffy family has also taken a judicial review against the MoD which is due to be heard later this month.

Earlier this month, the family lodged a challenge to the Legacy Act at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Mr Duffy’s daughter, Martina, said her family will continue to fight on in the courts here and in Europe for answers.

Patricia Coyle, solicitor for the family from Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors and Advocates, said the MoD has had four years from the first preliminary hearing in 2019 to move on disclosure.

“It is insulting, not only to our clients but to the rule of law, that having had four years to complete this work, now come to the court to claim they cannot complete it until 2 months after the legacy deadline,” she said.

Sara Duddy, from the Pat Finucane Centre, added: “We are now seeing the outworking of the Legacy Act that is having real, devastating effects on families.

“The Duffys have spent over 40 years seeking the truth about the assassination of their father.

“They will not allow a ‘resource issue’ at the eleventh hour stop them for receiving answers.”

The office of the Lady Chief Justice said: “This office cannot comment on individual judicial decisions”.