Mr Justice Rooney directed that a fresh hearing must now be held into the death of Thomas Friel back in May 1973.
He identified legal flaws in how findings of fact were reached in a case where relatives of the deceased believe he was struck by a rubber bullet fired by a soldier.
Mr Friel, 21, died four days after he sustained a serious head injury amid disturbances in Derry’s Creggan area.
His family insist he was not involved in any rioting at the time.
In December 2021 Coroner Joe McCrisken who oversaw a second inquest concluded, on balance and based on the evidence, that he had been not hit with a baton round.
He found instead that Mr Friel sustained three separate injuries to his head: first from being struck by a piece of masonry or other missile during disturbances between youths and the Army which then caused him to fall, fracture his skull and damage his brain.
An army veteran who discharged a rubber bullet on the day of the rioting told the inquest his patrol had come under attack.
Referred to as Soldier B, he said that he fired at a central figure but did not see it strike him.
In his findings the coroner described the inquest as a long and difficult exercise hampered by memories of events nearly 50 years ago and a background of “savage violence” during the Troubles, with 253 people losing their lives in 1973.
Mr Friel’s family mounted a judicial review challenge to the inquest verdict, claiming the findings of fact were not supported by evidence.
Ruling on the case, Mr Justice Rooney cited a failure to make any attempt to identify the specific object which allegedly hit Mr Friel.
“The fatal flaw in the coroner’s reasoning is that the evidence does not support a finding that the deceased was part of a crowd involved in stoning the army and that during an altercation, which cannot be identified and supported by the evidence, the deceased was struck with the missile (whether a piece of masonry or otherwise) with such velocity and force that it caused the deceased to sustain a significant injury thereby causing him to fall in an accelerated fashion, possibly unconscious onto a hard surface,” he said.
Although pathologists accepted that a brain injury from a skull fracture was the cause of death, the court heard there was uncertainty about how it occurred.
One expert who believed it had likely been from a fall onto a hard surface did not exclude the possibility of impact from a baton round.
Amid further allegations of unlawful restrictions on the questioning of the military witness, the judge stated: “The failure to follow the law and the correct procedure for claiming the privilege against self-incrimination during an inquest hearing has undermined the questioning and the oral testimony of Soldier B.”
Mr Justice Rooney confirmed: “I will make an order of certiorari and quash the impugned decision of the coroner.
“I will also make an order of mandamus directing that a fresh inquest should be heard before a different coroner.”Tags: