Legacy consultation process must be ‘timely’, ‘accessible’ and victim-led’ - Commissioner

The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors has said that the consultation process that will examine the legislation around legacy mechanism must be timely, accessible and victim-led.

Judith Thompson was speaking to Mark Carruthers on BBC's Sunday Politics programme yesterday after concerns were raised about the Northern Ireland Office's plans for a consultation process on legacy issues. The Secretary of State James Brokenshire announced his plans earlier this month to launch a consultation on the institutions proposed to deal with the issues of Northern Ireland’s past.

The consultation was one of the issues discussed at a recent meeting of the Victims and Survivors Forum. The group will be meeting the Secretary of State on 25 September to put forward their views on how the process should be managed.

Ms Thompson told the BBC programme that the message from the group will be ‘robust’:

"Our clear message to the Secretary of State is that this needs to happen in a timely way." she said.

“Until we see that draft legislation in its final form we don’t know exactly how happy or unhappy we are. We are very clear in principle that the institutions outlined which this legislation will deliver are ones that we want,” Ms Thompson added

“In terms of the consultation process, it needs to be done in a timely way, it needs to happen in a way that will enable legislation to be brought within this parliament.”

Asked if she felt 12 to 14 weeks was a long enough time period for a consultation process, Ms Thompson’s response was that it should be longer:

“We had advised that it should be a longer period than that. These are complex measures, they affect a lot of people and we need proper time for good understanding to be given to people on what’s on offer here.”

Accessibility is another aspect of the consultation process that needs addressed, the Commissioner said:

“The use of a website is fine and that’s proposed, but many people who should be involved in this consultation are quite elderly - these things happened 40 years ago in some cases - so we need ways for people that can feed into this who are elderly or who won’t find it easy to come forward.”

The Commissioner has suggested that the consultation process should allow for oral hearings and written submissions and needs to be put out as part of a ‘civic dialogue’, so that individuals, groups and parties and stakeholders in the criminal justice system, can feed into and engage with the process.

Ms Thompson also stated the importance of the consultation process being “inclusive, fit for purpose which is led and done in collaboration with victims and survivors themselves.”

You can watch the full interview on the BBC News iPlayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b094dd6y/sunday-politics-northern-ireland-17092017