Press Notice 013

Terms of Reference decision by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
5th November 2008

The Secretary of State issued a new decision letter on 4 November 2008 dealing with Jessica Hamill’s application for an extension of the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference.  The Secretary of State declined to grant the extension, but made it clear that the conduct of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and his staff is already within the jurisdiction of the Inquiry insofar as it relates to the investigation of Robert Hamill’s death. 

Insofar as the RUC investigation was shaped by prosecutorial decisions of the DPP, the Secretary of State made it plain that those decisions can be the subject of inquiry, without it being necessary for the Inquiry to reach conclusions as to the merits of such prosecutorial decisions. 

The Inquiry is now able to commence its oral hearings, and it will do so on 13 January 2009. 

Editors’ notes

  1. The terms of reference make no express reference to the DPP. The Secretary of State’s decision clarifies his view with regard to them.
  2. It was understood that the Inquiry would be unable to enquire critically into the actions of the DPP in relation to the aftermath of Robert Hamill’s death.  The Hamill family accordingly wrote in January 2007 to the Secretary of State, requesting that the terms of reference be extended to include the DPP. In March 2008, the Secretary of State informed the Hamill family that he did not think it would be in the public interest to extend the terms of reference.  The family challenged this decision by way of judicial review and on 1 July 2008, Mr Justice Weatherup in the High Court of Justice (NI) quashed the decision as being unlawful. 
  3. Because of the question mark over the extent of the terms of reference, the Inquiry had delayed the start of the oral hearings. 
  4. The Inquiry’s terms of reference are:

To inquire into the death of Robert Hamill with a view to determining whether any wrongful act or omission by or within the Royal Ulster Constabulary facilitated his death or obstructed the investigation of it, or whether attempts were made to do so; whether any such act or omission was intentional or negligent; whether the investigation of his death was carried out with due diligence; and to make recommendations.

  1. The Chairman of the Inquiry is Sir Edwin Jowitt, a retired Justice for the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division. The other members of the Inquiry Panel are Sir John Evans (former President of the Association of Chief Police Officers and retired Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary) and Reverend Baroness Richardson of Calow (Moderator of he Churches’ Commission for Inter Faith Relations).

  2. The Inquiry was established on 16 November 2004 when the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Paul Murphy, announced the terms of reference for the inquiry into the death of Robert Hamill following an incident in Portadown, County Armagh on 27 April 1997.

  3. Further information regarding the Inquiry can be obtained from the Inquiry’s website: or from the Press Officer to the Inquiry, Liz Fawcett, who can be contacted on +44 (0) 28 9020 0811 or +44 (0) 771 943 5662

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