NI: Legacy inquests could be further delayed by new referrals

Sir Declan Morgan
Sir Declan Morgan

The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan’s plan to clear a backlog of legacy inquests within five years could face delays as the Attorney General considers directing more deaths to inquest.

Sir Declan’s proposed legacy inquest unit has already faced delays due to the failure of the Northern Ireland Executive to agree to submit a funding application to the Secretary of State before this month’s elections.

Investigative news website The Detail now reports that a further 87 legacy deaths are being considered for inquest.

A spokesperson for Sir Declan has said further referrals in this way would lead to existing plans being revised.

The spokesperson told The Detail: “The Lord Chief Justice’s five year plan, which he proposed in February 2016, is intended to deal with the legacy cases currently before the Coroners’ Courts.

“The figure of 97 deaths includes cases directed by the Attorney General. If further cases are referred by the Attorney General, the Lord Chief Justice could not commit to completing all of those cases within that timeframe.

“The Lord Chief Justice is aware, from having met with the Attorney General and others when he was considering the way forward, that further referrals were a possibility.

“The plan would need to be reviewed if additional cases are directed by the Attorney General in the future.

“However, the Lord Chief Justice believes that it remains possible to deal with this element of the past and he has already said publicly that the incoming Executive needs to agree a way forward on legacy inquests, and indeed all of the outstanding issues in relation to dealing with the legacy of the past, as a matter of urgency.”

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