Finucane – UK Supreme Court finds that the government was required to demonstrate that it resiled from an undertaking based on genuine policy grounds

It is unclear to what extent CRA is legally bound to honour rulings given by it.

The applicant’s husband, a solicitor, was murdered in their home, in the presence of her and their children, by Irish loyalist terrorists with the assistance of collusion from members of the government security forces. Respecting her claim that the government should be held to its promise to hold an inquiry, Lord Kerr stated:

[W]here a clear and unambiguous undertaking has been made, the authority giving the undertaking will not be allowed to depart from it unless it is shown that it is fair to do so. The court is the arbiter of fairness in this context. And a matter sounding on the question of fairness is whether the alteration in policy frustrates any reliance which the person or group has placed on it. …

However, in finding that the government could now resile from its undertaking, he stated:

Where political issues overtake a promise or undertaking given by government, and where contemporary considerations impel a different course, provided a bona fide decision is taken on genuine policy grounds not to adhere to the original undertaking, it will be difficult for a person who holds a legitimate expectation to enforce compliance with it.

Neal Armstrong. Summary of Finucane, Re Application for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2019] UKSC 7 under s. 152(1).