The previous post dealt with the actions of Coroner Leckey leading to the adjournment of the case in his Court when I asked to question the Forensic Officer Coll about why it appeared to me that he had altered the evidence to match his conclusion.The Coroner immediately adjourned the case much to my relief because I no longer wished to be part of a mockery of Justice engineered by Leckey.
It was my view that the Coroner was highly selective in his choice of witnesses and deliberately restricted my access to them to ask questions. Other Coronial Office staff know the truth of the matter but I believe that none of the Police were ever invited to attend to give evidence. It had happened in a previous case dealing with Raymond’s case that was subsequently adjourned. In my mind he had already come to a conclusion before the case started and my presence in his Court was only to give a veneer of correctness to the proceedings.
He showed a distinct bias in the proceedings with the selection of witnesses and hearing the available evidence. It was not the first time that he was accused of doing so. In a separate case that same year, application had been made to the High Court to have him stand aside for showing bias in the evidence and to the deceased’s family. He stood down from the case before it was examined in the High Court. I resolved not to return unless a different Coroner was appointed. It was my view that the Coroner would have been well served by taking time off and re-reading his own “little yellow book” on the subject of coronial investigations.
The Coroner has delayed inquests into the deaths of suspected terrorists for over 15 years as he diligently tries to obtain evidence which may be contained in Police files. Referring to those cases, Justice Gillen, a High Court Judge said:
“If inquests are to maintain public confidence, put minds at rest and answer the questions of the families who are bereaved, it is vital to ensure that the interested/next of kin can participate in an informed, open and transparent fashion and on an equal footing with all other parties throughout the various stages of the inquest including, at the very outset of the process, the very scope of the inquest.”
I am convinced that such involvement was denied to me and to Raymond’s family. I wonder by what criteria the Coroner can differentiate between one violent death and another.
It might be worth considering the possible reasons why the three police witnesses did not attend the Court. If they did not receive a summons to attend, then that was an example of inefficiency by the Court staff. If summons were sent out then they might not have been directed to the individual officers and that would indicate an administrative failing or some deliberate act within the Police. If the three officers received the summonses but did not act on them then it is reasonable to conclude that they were instructed to take no action. Finally, it is reasonable to entertain the possibility that the Court staff were instructed not to send the summons out. Only an independent investigation could arrive at the truth.
That same day, the Coroner wrote a letter to Mr Meehan of the Ombudsman’s Office and circulated a copy to the Chief Constable (Hugh Orde), the Chief Executive of Forensics (S Brown), Sergeant McBride, Mr Coll the Forensic investigator and a copy to me. The letter was addressed primarily to Mr Meehan of the Police Ombudsman’s Office and it referred to the letter sent to the Court by Meehan and which was eventually disowned by the Police Ombudsman and withdrawn in total.
“On 19th May I re-commenced the inquest into the death of Robert Raymond Lynn who died on 11th November 2003 at Steeple Road/Crosskeenan Road junction, Antrim. Previously, you had considered a complaint made by Stanley Lynn, a brother of the deceased, and I am enclosing a copy of your letter to me dated 18th February 2008 giving your decision.
At the hearing this morning, Mr Stanley Lynn made serious allegations about the adequacy of the investigation you undertook into his complaint, the original police investigation and the investigation by Mr Coll of FSNI. He used words to the effect that there had been some form of “Masonic conspiracy” and that Mr Coll had acted not only unprofessionally but had interfered with evidence in a manner that would allow him to reach the conclusions that he did.
I announced in court that in view of such serious allegations I would be referring the complaint back to you. You will note that I am sending a copy of this letter to the Chief Constable and to the Chief Executive of Forensic Science of Northern Ireland. As a matter of courtesy I am sending a copy of the letter also to Mr Coll and Sergeant McBride ( the investigating police officer).
I indicated to Mr Lynn that having made such serious allegations in the public forum of a Coroner’s Court he should now proceed to ask you to re-consider his complaint. Even if he does not do so I would ask that you make contact with him to obtain precise details of the evidence that he believes backs up his allegations.
I should be grateful if you would acknowledge receipt of this letter.
J L Leckey
Senior Coroner for Northern Ireland.
I wrote back to the Coroner and circulated it to the same recipients as his letter. I said:
“I am in receipt of your letter and enclosures dated 19th May 2009.
In your letter you have quoted me as using the words “Masonic conspiracy.” The word “conspiracy” has legal significance and I did not use it in my address to you. I expressed the view that in my experience a type of Accident Investigator masonic (small m ) was operating, and that whenever I challenged one agency, the Report from another agency would be used to avoid taking any action on my complaint. I was alluding to the general perception that Masons were inclined to support and help each other. I have several instances where no action was taken on a complaint on the basis that another agency did not agree with me. In my view there is a circle of mutual support which, so far, I have been unable to breach.
It is also my experience that there is an exchange of Reports amongst the various agencies and I presume that the purpose is to reach a consensus. I consider this to be unhealthy and prevents any truly independent Report being produced. One bad Report can corrupt the others.
In the meantime, I will try to find a different adjective to describe such a symbiotic relationship.”
The Police were the first to reply. The Command Secretariat said :
“Having read your letter it is apparent to me that your complaint relates to previous correspondence you received from the Coroner’s Office. To that extent I do not consider it appropriate to make any comments about the matter you raise.” Signed Supt. John McCaughan
The Coroner sent me a copy he had received in reply from Forensic Science. It said :
“Thank you for the copy of your letter dated the 19th May 2009, addressed to Mr Meehan of the Police Ombudsman’s Office, detailing an allegation made by Mr Stanley Lynn.
Mr Lynn has made serious allegations about the adequacy of the investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office in response to his original complaint to them, the original police investigation of the fatal road accident and the subsequent investigation by Mr Coll of Forensic Science Northern Ireland. (See Post dated 4th June 2018)
Without prejudice to any investigation which PONI may undertake with regard to this matter, I am responding, as the Quality Director of FSNI, to your letter on behalf of our Chief Executive, regarding the allegations made by Mr Lynn against Mr Coll. Such a response is required under our Complaints Procedure within our Quality Management System.
I have considered these allegations and carefully reviewed the case details and, subsequently, a previous complaint made to the FSNI by Mr Lynn on the same issue via the Minister of State, in August 2005.
The previous complaint was subjected to an investigation and responded to by the then Chief Executive of FSNI in accordance with the quality management system complaints procedure. The findings of the investigation at that time determined that Mr Coll had performed all his duties in a manner which preserved the reputation of FSNI for impartiality and scientific competence.
Having objectively reviewed all the files, I believe that there is no substance in the accusations made by Mr Lynn against Mr Coll and can further confirm our confidence in the objectivity and the professional competence of Mr Coll in performing his duties.
If there is any assistance which I can offer with regard to this case please do not hesitate to contact me.”
Signed: Albert Kirkwood Quality Director FSNI
I thought this was incredibly clever of them since I did not tell the Coroner of the substance of my allegation and they did not know to what I was referring.
A short time later, another sergeant from the Durham Constabulary seconded to the Ombudsman called at my home and asked me to detail my complaint against his organisation. I told him that I was making no complaint as I had long since abandoned that course of action and that I would deal with it all in my book. We spent about two hours going through the case and I emphasised the misleading letter written by the Ombudsman to the Coroner.
I cooperated with him, answered any question he put to me, but I did not tell him anything of the grounds for the allegation against the Forensic Officer, nor did he ask. We had agreed at the outset that it was not a matter for the Police Ombudsman. He said that his Report of the meeting would be ready in about 3 or 4 weeks and he would get back to me. When the time was up, I contacted him and he said there would be a further delay. Just less than a year later I was still waiting. He was careful and considerate in his dealings with me and I was happy to help him even though the purpose of his visit was unclear to me. I presume the contents of his Report were not for my eyes. It was much later that I understood that his conclusions played a central and reinforcing role in the apology I eventually received from Dr McGuire the Police Ombudsman on 24th September 2012, some three years after the adjourned Coroner’s Court case on 19th May 2009.
After Leckey decided to adjourn the case pending investigations of my allegations and before we left the court, he said that he would arrange for a Certificate of Death to be issued immediately so that my family could complete any administrative or financial requirements without further delay. I assumed it was a considerate action on his part to ease any problems for the family that might have been caused by a further delay of his findings.
In truth, I now think he was already preparing the ground to close the case down and bury it. It was three years before I found that is exactly what he did.
The next post will deal with the his actions post the adjournment of the case.