NI: Legacy inquests to be cleared within six years after £55m funding released
The Department of Justice has released £55 million in funding to allow the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, to implement his plan to deal with legacy inquests.
The announcement comes more than three years after Sir Declan first proposed plans to deal with all 56 outstanding legacy cases within five years.
His plan was delayed by a lack of political agreement and the later collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive.
In March 2018, Mr Justice Paul Girvan ruled that former First Minister Arlene Foster had unlawfully prevented a paper on legacy inquests from going before the Northern Ireland Executive for consideration.
The High Court judge held that there was an obligation on State authorities to ensure that the Coroners Service could effectively comply with Article 2 irrespective of whether an overall package in respect of all legacy issues was agreed.
Peter May, permanent secretary of the Department of Justice, said: “The delays in progressing legacy inquests have been unacceptable to families involved and to the justice system.
“In the Hughes judicial review judgment, the court ruled that progress on securing funding for legacy inquests should not be linked with agreement on the overall legacy package but taken forward as a separate issue.
“This initiative takes account of that judgment and will support a significant expansion of capacity to clear the outstanding legacy inquests over the next six years.”
Sir Declan said: “I am pleased that funding is now going to be provided to implement the plan for dealing with legacy inquests which I proposed over three years ago. There is clearly a great deal of preparatory work to be done to establish the Legacy Inquest Unit and deliver my plan.
“During this preparatory period, it will be important to engage with all the relevant agencies and parties who will have to play their part in ensuring that the outstanding inquests can be completed within a five year period once the unit has been established.
“While the preparations for the Legacy Inquest Unit are ongoing, I expect that there will be a further judge-led review to follow up on the work undertaken by Lord Justice Weir when he carried out a comprehensive review of these cases in February 2016. We anticipate this review will be completed before the summer recess.”