Belfast Telegraph

Bradley faces court challenges over ongoing Stormont vacuum

By Alan Erwin

The Secretary of State is facing two separate legal challenges over alleged failures to take action in the absence of an Executive at Stormont.

Victims of historical institutional abuse have already cleared the first stage in a High Court bid to secure compensation recommended by a major inquiry.

And separate proceedings have been issued by a man who wants details of his gender history removed from a marriage certificate.

Both cases are seeking to have Karen Bradley compelled to take steps amid the continued political stalemate - whether by calling an Assembly election, securing some form of restored devolution, or introducing direct rule.

One of the challenges was brought on behalf of those abused in children's homes.

In January 2017 the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry concluded there should be a public apology to those who suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse between 1922 to 1995, and compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000.

Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart has since made repeated pleas to politicians to act on his recommendations and provide the financial, social and educational support as a matter of urgency.

Earlier this year the head of the Civil Service in Northern Ireland revealed work was under way on draft legislation aimed at implementing the inquiry's proposals.

But legal action is being taken in a bid to compel the Secretary of State and Executive Office to take immediate steps and ensure compensation is fully provided.

Lawyers representing one of the victims granted anonymity contend that despite Stormont's collapse there can be "no vacuum in government". They also claim there is a legal obligation to propose an early date for Assembly elections.

With leave to seek a judicial review already granted in that case, a full hearing is listed for September.

Claire McKeegan of KRW Law, representing the abuse survivor, claimed it was unlawful to permit a governmental vacuum for such a period of time.

Another challenge against the Secretary of State has been launched by a man who wed his long-term partner after officially changing sex. In 2016 a High Court judge declared his rights to privacy were breached over a reference on the publicly-accessible marriage certificate.

Despite that ruling, lawyers representing the man, who has also been given anonymity, claim nothing was done to remove the information disclosing his gender history. With no administration at Stormont, solicitor Ciaran Moynagh confirmed judicial review papers have now been lodged against the Secretary of State. He said: "Since 2016 our client has waited for his amended marriage certificate but it now seems that no one will remedy the breach and it continues indefinitely. This is unacceptable.

"Given the political stalemate, regrettably our client has now had to lodge fresh proceedings against the relevant Department and the Secretary of State. He simply wants his rights protected and respected in accordance with the initial judgment."

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