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Call to deal with unit for legacy inquests ahead of elections

Published 09/03/2016

Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan
Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan

The head of the judiciary has urged ministers to grasp a window of opportunity to deal with Northern Ireland's past before Assembly elections are called.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has made proposals on legacy inquests which could see a new dedicated unit established and beginning to hear cases by September.

He said Justice Minister David Ford was about to write to the Executive on a united bid for funding from Westminster.

He added: " I urge the Executive and the Secretary of State not to miss this window of opportunity. There is much work to be done and we are ready to do it.

"We are offering a pragmatic and proportionate response to the challenge we have been given."

The senior judge has drawn up proposals to hold outstanding legacy inquests over the next five years, but needs extra resources to achieve a step-change in the pace of proceedings.

Assembly elections are due in May.

Sir Declan addressed a victims' conference on Wednesday.

He said: "If there is no response before the election, we will almost certainly not be able to achieve a September start date, which would be extremely disappointing.

"We might at best be able to get one or two cases on before Christmas, but we would be unable to achieve the step change that is required to deal with all of these cases in an Article 2 compliant way.

"The rate of progress before I became president (of the coroners' system) is evidence that the status quo is not an option."

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