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More than £100k spent defending abortion law

By Michael McHugh

Published 09/09/2016

Disappointed: MLA Claire Bailey
Disappointed: MLA Claire Bailey

The Justice Department has spent more than £100,000 defending Northern Ireland's abortion law against legal action taken by the Human Rights Commission.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and two other Court of Appeal judges are considering their judgment following an appeal in June by the Department of Justice and Attorney General.

The appeal followed a High Court ruling in November 2015 in favour of the commission's case that the current law was incompatible with human rights.

The department said it had spent £102,217 on legal fees for the High Court and Court of Appeal challenges as well as costs. It was responding to a question from Green Party MLA Clare Bailey.

She said: "I am disappointed that over £100,000 of public money has been squandered on this unnecessary court case, which was started by the previous justice minister. The High Court has ruled that our abortion laws are not compliant with human rights legislation and it is a disgrace that, instead of making our laws compliant, the ruling was appealed."

The commission had repeatedly advised the DoJ that the existing law violates the human rights of women and girls.

Two years ago the department published a public consultation on allowing for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. In the commission's view the department had not committed to making the changes necessary, failing to deal with serious malformation of foetus.

Amnesty International's Patrick Corrigan said: "Rather than pursuing endless, costly litigation through the courts in a futile attempt to defend bad law, the Executive should be pursuing legislation to bring the region into line with international human rights standards."

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