Northern Ireland

Government lodges appeal against High Court ruling on Troubles Legacy Act

Last week, a judge ruled that the provision for conditional immunity from prosecution for Troubles offences is not human rights-compliant.

Protests take place  , As Families attended  the judgment hearing on the lawfulness of the legacy act At Belfast High Court on Wednesday. 
Mr Justice Colton declared that parts of the legislation aimed at dealing with the consequences of the conflict in Northern Ireland breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Belfast case was brought by Martina Dillon, John McEvoy, Lynda McManus and Brigid Hughes.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Protest before Legacy judgment Families of those who died during the Troubles protest. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

The Government has announced it is to appeal over a ruling by the High Court in Belfast that one of the key elements of the Northern Ireland Troubles Legacy Act is unlawful.

Last week, Mr Justice Adrian Colton ruled that the provision for conditional immunity from prosecution for Troubles offences in the legislation is not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The judge also said there is no evidence that the immunity provision will in any way contribute to reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

However, he did rule that a new body set up to probe Troubles killings could carry out human rights-compliant investigations.

The victims who brought the legal challenge described their battle as “half won” and vowed to fight on, potentially to the Supreme Court.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris then said the Government “will consider Mr Justice Colton’s findings very, very carefully”, but added that ministers “remain committed to implementing the Legacy Act”.

Today, the Government announced that it has lodged an application to appeal against the ruling.



A spokesman said: “Following consideration of all aspects of the judgment, the UK Government has lodged an application for an appeal with the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

“We remain committed to implementing the Legacy Act and delivering the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the Troubles by giving them more information about what happened to their loved ones.”

Martina Dillon, whose husband, Seamus, was shot dead in Dungannon, outside Belfast High Court with supporters after last week’s ruling
Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act Martina Dillon, whose husband, Seamus, was shot dead in Dungannon, outside Belfast High Court with supporters after last week’s ruling (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Act received royal assent in September despite widespread opposition from political parties, victims’ organisations in Northern Ireland, and the Irish Government.

Aspects of its laws include a limited form of immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences for those who co-operate with the new ICRIR).

The new Act will also halt future civil cases and legacy inquests.

A number of Troubles victims launched legal action challenging the human rights compliance of the Government’s Act.

Separately, the Irish Government has launched an interstate legal case against the UK Government over the Legacy Act, arguing that it breaches human rights laws.