Current Key Documents

Third Procedural Update, 25th October 2006

The start of the Full Hearings
In his Initial Statement, made on 19th April 2005 at Craigavon, the Chairman set out the approach the Inquiry intended to take to its work and warned that it would take the time it needed to get to the truth.

In its First Procedural Update of 14th December 2005, the Inquiry announced that it intended to begin its Full Hearings on 16th January 2007. In the ten months which have passed since that announcement, the Inquiry team have worked very hard to ensure that there would be properly prepared, focused and effective hearings beginning on that date.

With just under three months remaining, the Inquiry has, reluctantly, concluded that it will not be possible to begin such hearings in January. In the Inquiry's view, it would not be fair to the Full Participants (including the family Full Participants), nor consistent with the Inquiry's own approach to its work, to keep to the existing date. There is not enough time available to complete the outstanding work required before the hearings and to enable the Full Participants to prepare for those hearings.

The Inquiry recognises that this news will disappoint some of those who are concerned with its work. It has reached its decision only after carefully considering the progress made to date in all areas of its work and the adverse consequences of deciding to maintain the present start date.

The following comments on the nature and range of some of the Inquiry's continuing work may help to explain the present decision and to put it into its context.

The Inquiry's obligations
The Inquiry's Terms of Reference require it to investigate the possibility that Government agencies or others may have to some extent been involved with, complicit in or responsible for the murder of Rosemary Nelson. None of these matters has been subjected to any form of public scrutiny before. No one has been convicted of, or even charged with, her murder. In addition, the Inquiry has to assess whether the murder investigation was conducted with due diligence and whether it was obstructed.

These factors all serve to make this a most unusual, if not unprecedented, public inquiry. They place a heavy burden on the Inquiry to do everything it can to get to the truth. They mean that the Inquiry must address complex and difficult questions as to the way in which it can fairly examine these issues in public hearings.

The Inquiry continues to seek out relevant material from Full Participants and others. Pursuant to those requests, the Inquiry has received a very substantial quantity of new material in recent months. In general, the Inquiry receives the level of co-operation and assistance which is to be expected and which is necessary for the success of its work. However, the Inquiry still has a number of requests for disclosure outstanding and will deal robustly with all those who fail to deal with its requests in a timely and conscientious manner.

Witness statements
The Inquiry has, to date, asked in excess of 300 people to provide a witness statement. Its appointed Solicitors, Eversheds, have now interviewed more than 140 individuals, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

Eversheds will continue to interview as many witnesses as make themselves available over the coming months. Despite all of their efforts, however, it has sometimes proved difficult to arrange interviews as rapidly as Eversheds and the Inquiry would wish.

All those who are asked to provide evidence are encouraged to contact Eversheds to arrange an interview as soon as possible. The Inquiry reminds those approached of the evidential undertakings which apply to their evidence and which are published on the website.

Following interviews, draft witness statements are prepared and sent out to witnesses for any amendments to be made and for the statements then to be signed. Unfortunately, a very large number of draft statements have not been returned by interviewees within a reasonable period. This causes delay and impedes the work of the Inquiry.

The Inquiry has therefore decided that if interviewees fail to return their signed statements by Wednesday 22nd November 2006 or within 28 days of the despatch of the draft witness statement (whichever is the later) the Inquiry may decide to rely upon the draft witness statement, accompanied by a statement from Eversheds, stating that the draft constitutes an accurate account of what the witness said at interview.

The Inquiry Bundle
The first part of the draft Bundle, which consists of more than 50 lever arch files of documents, has now been prepared by the Inquiry's legal team.

The process of deciding whether any documents require redaction, before this part of the Inquiry Bundle can be provided to the Full Participants, is now under way. As set out in the Procedures Document (at paragraph 28) redaction will occur where it is necessary to prevent the disclosure or publication of irrelevant personal information or sensitive information.

The views of providers of documents and other parties with a legitimate interest have been sought in relation to redaction. The Panel will shortly be reviewing the applications made before making redaction decisions.

Some of those who have been contacted by the Inquiry for comments on redaction have not yet responded. Where parties have not responded by Wednesday 8th November 2006 or fourteen days after despatch of a letter from the Inquiry seeking comments (whichever is the later) the Inquiry will assume that there are no comments to be made.

The Inquiry is also currently redacting irrelevant personal information from those documents that are intended to form part of the Inquiry Bundle. In addition to details such as personal addresses, the names of individuals who are not witnesses, whose names are not publicly known and who are deemed irrelevant to the Inquiry's work will be redacted.

For the avoidance of doubt, if, during the course of the Inquiry's work, a redacted name or detail takes on a particular significance it would then be open to any Full Participant to make appropriate representations that information hitherto redacted as "irrelevant" be revealed.

Once the task of redacting sensitive and irrelevant personal information is completed the first part of the Bundle will then need to await decisions on anonymity (see below). Once final anonymity decisions have been made, ciphers will be inserted in place of any names of witnesses granted anonymity. At that point, the first part of the Inquiry Bundle can and will be distributed to Full Participants.

Given the number of applications for anonymity which the Inquiry has received and the time which will be required to deal with them, it is, at present, not possible for the Inquiry to say with certainty when it will be in a position to distribute the first part of the Inquiry Bundle. The Inquiry's best estimate is that this stage will not be reached until early in the new year.

It is not possible for the Inquiry to say at what point other parts of the Inquiry Bundle may be completed.

The Inquiry has received a substantial number of applications for anonymity.

The Inquiry will proceed to consider the applications for anonymity as follows:

  • The Panel will come to a provisional view on anonymity having considered the submitted application - it is intended that these provisional views will be reached by the end of October 2006.
  • A copy of the relevant provisional ruling will be sent to the party seeking anonymity.
  • Copies of provisional rulings (in anonymised form), along with anonymised versions of the relevant applications, will, where possible, be sent to the Family Full Participants.
  • If the party seeking anonymity or the Family Full Participants wish the Panel to amend or vary their provisional decision, they should make their case in written submissions. The Inquiry will set a timetable for the receipt of such submissions when issuing its provisional rulings.
  • If, in relation to any application, the Panel deem it necessary, provision will be made for a private hearing. At that hearing, the relevant applicant and the Family Full Participants may be permitted to make such oral submissions as may assist the Panel.
  • The Panel will announce their final decisions on anonymity. It is intended that final rulings (in anonymised form) will be made public and posted on the Inquiry's website.
  • Those witnesses (if any) who are granted anonymity will have their names redacted from the documents in the Inquiry Bundle and replaced with a cipher.
  • Any witnesses given anonymity who are called to give evidence at the Full Hearings will be referred to at those hearings by their cipher.

The Police Murder Investigation
Mr Ayling's draft report on the question of whether the investigation of Rosemary Nelson's murder was conducted with due diligence was provided to the Inquiry on 20th October. The draft report, which is the product of over a year's work, is a very substantial document indeed, running to hundreds of pages. The Inquiry has decided that it would not be fair to Mr Port and those he represents as Full Participant to set a timetable for comments until the Inquiry has itself had an opportunity to consider the draft report.

A new date for the Full Hearings
The amount and the range of work which remains to be completed to enable the Inquiry and the Full Participants fully and properly to prepare for the Full Hearings is such that it is not possible for the Inquiry to say when those hearings will begin.

The Inquiry's current estimate, however, is that the Full Hearings will not begin before September 2007. The Inquiry's ability to deliver properly prepared, focused and effective hearings by that time is, to a significant degree, dependent on the co-operation it receives from those engaged with its work, whether Full Participants or others.

As and when it is possible to do so, the Inquiry will announce a definite start date for the Full Hearings and issue a timetable of the procedural steps leading up to those hearings.

Venue for the Full Hearings
It may assist those interested in the work of the Inquiry to know that the Full Hearings will take place in the Interpoint Centre, 20-24 York Street, Belfast BT15 1AQ.

The Security Service as Full Participant
The Inquiry has received some requests for clarification of its decision (announced on the website on 20th September) to grant the Security Service's application for Full Participant status.

The Inquiry Panel decided to grant the application on the grounds put forward by the Security Service. In doing so, the Panel had in mind the Inquiry's Terms of Reference, which require the Inquiry to investigate the actions of some named bodies (the RUC, NIO and the Army) and others which fall within the expression "other state agency".

The Security Service falls within this expression and at an early stage of its work the Inquiry had identified it as a potential source of evidence and as an agency into whose actions or omissions the Inquiry might need to inquire. The other bodies named in the Terms of Reference are all Full Participants and, on receipt of an application from the Security Service, the Panel concluded that it would be appropriate to make the Security Service a Full Participant.

As with all decisions taken by the Panel, this decision was taken with the Inquiry's obligations of independence and pursuit of the truth clearly in mind.

Rosemary Nelson Inquiry
25th October 2006

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