FAQs

1. There are a lot of abbreviations in the document, what do each of these stand for?

2. What is a statute of limitations and why was it left out of the consultation?

A statute of limitations is defined in law as a restricted time period after an event in which legal proceedings may be initiated and can apply to both civil and criminal cases.

In 2017 the UK House of Commons Select Committee proposed a ‘statute of limitations’ as a recommendation that would apply only to armed forces and security forces from the beginning of the conflict, through to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Lawyers who gave evidence to this Select Committee argued that in the context of Northern Ireland, this would be a de-facto amnesty for all those involved in Troubles-related incidents including republican and loyalist groups.

In January 2018, the Commissioner appeared on UTV’s View From Stormont to discuss the proposed statute of limitations with Professor McEvoy who has led a team of academics and civil society activists working on the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland since 2013.  During this appearance, Professor McEvoy clarified "If there's going to be a statute of limitations, that's an amnesty.  It's an amnesty that will apply to all of the actors in the conflict - both state and non-state."

Between December 2017 and January 2018, the Commissioner and the Victims and Survivors Forum met with political representatives from the Northern Ireland Assembly, Westminster and the Republic of Ireland, to outline their desire to see the Legacy Consultation progressed but without the proposed Statute of Limitations.  All political parties were also in favour of the removal of the de-facto amnesty.

3. How many Legacy Inquests are outstanding with the Coroner’s Court?

As of the 8 March 2018 the Judicial Communications Office in Northern Ireland reported that 54 inquests (in relation to 94 deaths) were outstanding. Of these, 30 inquests (51 deaths) has been directed by the Attorney General and one by the Advocate General. [1]

4. How are Legacy Inquests being dealt with?

An inquest is an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding a death. The purpose of the inquest is to find out who the deceased person was and, how, when and where they died, and to establish the details the Registrar of Deaths needs to register the death. [2]

Once the Coroner’s investigation into the death has finished, the Coroner will usually decide if an inquest is to be held. This can take some time to complete and is dependent on the circumstances of the death and the final report of the postmortem examination. [3]

The Coroners Office will be able to keep you informed of the progress of the Coroner’s investigation and you should contact the office if you have any questions. There is a separate leaflet on inquests and the procedures involved. This will be sent to you by the Coroners Office if the Coroner decides an inquest is necessary. [4]

The Stormont House Agreement highlighted how the current legacy inquest process is 'not providing access to sufficiently effective investigation within an acceptable timeframe.' 

In February 2016, the Lord Chief Justice (“the LCJ”) who is now President of the Coroners Courts said that the existing Coroners Service was not adequately resourced to carry the weight of cases but he was confident that, if the necessary resources were provided and with the full cooperation of the relevant statutory agencies, it should be possible to hear all the remaining legacy cases within five years. He proposed the creation of a Legacy Inquest Unit and was satisfied that his plan would fulfil the criteria that need to be met in order to discharge the UK Government’s Article 2 obligations. [5]
Currently, funding to support the processing of the significant number of outstanding legacy cases has not been forthcoming.

5. What is the Legacy Investigations Branch?

The Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) is a component part of the PSNI Chief Constable’s response to his statutory obligations when it comes to dealing with the past.    Between 1 January, 1969, and 1 March, 2004, there were more than 3,200 homicides in Northern Ireland.   The review of these cases and where credible evidence exists, the further investigation of them, is the responsibility of the LIB. The LIB’s cases are managed and progressed by detectives using a Case Sequencing Model which takes a number of factors into consideration. [6]
The LIB engages with families to provide information about its work and also cooperates with other statutory bodies. 

6. What does the Legacy Consultation not cover?

The Legacy Consultation summary document highlights a number of other proposals contained in the Stormont House Agreement that will help to meet the needs of victims and survivors – but do not form part of this consultation. These are:

  • Making sure victims and survivors can access high quality services;
  • Making sure people can access advocate-counsellor assistance;
  • Setting up a Mental Trauma Service;
  • Finding a way to support severely physically injured victims in Northern Ireland through a pension;
  • Making sure that inquests have better outcomes for victims and survivors and continue to meet human rights responsibilities. 

 

 

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