Belfast Telegraph

Scandal of 20-year inquest

Case sparks judge's call for legal shake-up to tackle delays

The delay of a case for 20 years after a jury was sworn in is expected to be used as an example that a legal culture which is causing major delays to inquests may require a radical rethink.

High Court Judge Mr Justice McCloskey is due to give a speech at a seminar today in which he will set out some of the potential consequences of so-called satellite litigation.

Spiralling costs associated with continued delays and undue legal complexities are to be outlined.

Mr Justice McCloskey is expected to raise the example of one particular legacy case which has still to take place nearly 20 years after a jury was sworn in.

His observations are to form part of a Northern Ireland Law Commission seminar on Coroners and Inquest Law at the Inn of Court today.

The judge, who chairs the Commission, is to examine the judicial role and the impact of the Article 2 Right to Life brought into domestic law as part of the European Convention on Human Rights.

His speech is expected to focus on how judicial review challenges to inquest issues are often brought in advance of the actual hearing, rather than waiting for the outcome.

Rather than the intended last resort, delegates are to be told that lawyers are repeatedly "beating the doors" of the High Court long before the tribunal actually unfolds.

It is anticipated that the judge will touch on how a legal culture surrounding forthcoming inquests has evolved.

One suggestion to be made is that the time may have come for a radical rethink on the part of superior courts.

Two basic choices will also be set out: should an inquest proceed to its conclusion and then possible legal challenges be considered; or should the tribunal be subjected to indefinite legal delays.

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