Access to Justice

 

A Chara,

The word “catastrophic” may be over-used but we fear it is justified responding to the British government’s deeply cynical proposals to bar all families bereaved in the conflict in Northern Ireland (including families living in the Republic of Ireland, Britain and elsewhere) from access to justice.

Although the proposals (see: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1002140/CP_498_Addressing_the_Legacy_of_Northern_Ireland_s_Past.pdf) are described in the press as merely “ending the prosecution of veterans” they go much further and we believe, if implemented, would permanently close down:

  • All inquests ordered by the Northern Ireland Attorney General on the basis of new and significant evidence (and possibly also inquests where preliminary hearings have begun)
  • All civil actions now in the queue to be heard in the courts
  • All future inquiries by the Police Ombudsman, even those accepted as “grave and exceptional”
  • All current and future inquiries by the Legacy Investigations Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

We cannot over-emphasise the potentially disastrous outcome of the proposals, both for the bereaved families who we represent and for the community as a whole in Northern Ireland. Far from encouraging reconciliation, it will only increase already tense cross-community relations.

We believe the resulting alienation would be worse than the outcome of Brexit. In ignoring the expressed wishes of every party represented at Stormont, and all groups advocating for victims across the community, London would be hollowing out confidence in both the state’s institutions and in the law.

We cannot think of similar proposals arising from a conflict anywhere in the world. They are, quite simply, unprecedented in our international experience and almost certainly in breach of London’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

We realise that you will shortly be on your summer break and we cannot expect you to give this matter sufficient attention until after the summer, but we wish to put you on notice that we will be in touch with you again in September with more information.

This could include more written evidence, meetings with individual families or with ourselves and other NGOs in the field. In the meantime, if you wish to inquire further, please do so via the address and/or numbers above.

Yours,
Paul O’Connor
Manager, Pat Finucane Centre

 

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