British government appeal challenging a finding that parts of the Legacy Act breaches human rights laws gets underway

british government appeal challenging a finding that parts of the legacy act breaches human rights laws gets underway

Court of Appeal in Belfast

The UK Government’s controversial new Troubles Legacy Act is a parliamentary-endorsed attempt to achieve reconciliation in Northern Ireland, the Court of Appeal heard on Tuesday.

Counsel for the Secretary of State also argued that perpetrators of conflict-related crimes offered conditional amnesties under the bitterly-opposed legislation could still face prosecution.

Tony McGleenan KC insisted: “If it’s not earned, the criminal justice process remains intact.”

The government is challenging a finding that parts of the Act breaches human rights laws.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act, which came into effect last September, could offer potential immunities to those accused of killings during more than 30 years of sectarian violence.

It also brought a halt to civil litigation and inquests not completed by the cut-off date of May 1.

The government has described the Act as an attempt to draw a line under Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

It involved the establishment of an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) where self-confessed perpetrators who fully cooperate with the legacy body may be offered immunity from prosecution.

Amid fierce criticism from victims’ organisations, political parties and the Irish Government, a raft of judicial review challenges were brought by some of those who either lost loved ones or were injured in the conflict.

They argued that the legislation is unconstitutional, denies access to justice and aimed at protecting British Army veterans and other security force personnel from prosecution for any wrongdoing in Northern Ireland.

In February, the High Court ruled that the potential granting of immunity under the Act is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

A judge also declared that sections of the legislation shutting down Troubles-related civil actions brought after May 17, 2022 and prohibiting any new claims lodged after November 18, 2023 is incompatible with Article 6 of the ECHR and the Windsor Framework.

Opening the appeal against those findings, Mr McGleenan argued that the changes to criminal and civil justice within the Act had their foundation in previous legislative “modifications” which led to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement back in April 1998.

He set out a series of initiatives during the intervening years aimed at Northern Ireland’s troubled past, including the Eames/Bradley Consultative Group, the Stormont House Agreement and the New Decade New Approach deal which led to the restoration of power-sharing in 2020.

Analysing the terms of the Act, the barrister said it has been “characatured and criticised” for being about protecting British veterans.

But he stressed: “It’s about a great deal more, it’s about fidelity to the core principles of the Belfast Agreement, particularly that of reconciliation.

“It’s an attempt to address political failures to implement those core principles.”

The three appeal judges, Lady Chief Justice Keegan, Lord Justice Horner and Mr Justice Scoffield, were told the new legislation was also aimed at dealing with “real capacity problems” in Northern Ireland’s legal system.

“It makes provision for victims and memorialisation,” Mr McGleenan maintained.

“It seeks to ensure maximum incentives for those involved in the Troubles who seek immunity to make full and truthful disclosure while also reserving full capacity for prosecution.”

During submissions he explored the legislative process in the lead up to the Act receiving Royal Assent.

By 2022 attempts to develop a policy were under consideration at the highest levels of government, the court heard.

It was set out how the Prime Minister at the time, Boris Johnson, intervened to shift proposals for a general amnesty to a conditional one where immunity from criminal charges must be earned.

Mr McGleenan contended that the government and Parliament subjected the Bill to “anxious consideration” before reaching the view that it complied with Article 2 of the ECHR.

The court was shown internal memorandums about how the legislation was scrutinised on meeting those obligations.

Despite the Council of Europe having urged the government to make amendments, Mr McGleenan insisted the Council of Ministers did not issue an outright condemnation of the conditional amnesty proposals as breaching Article 2.

“They are expressing concern, acknowledging a risk that it might,” he said.

According to counsel, the terms of the Act were examined and ultimately enshrined into primary legislation.

“There is the importance of parliamentary sovereignty,” Mr McGleenan emphasised.

He went on to argue that the legislation also allows for the examination of “preventability” in incidents where it is alleged that the state could have done more,

Mer McGleenan added: “The underpinning concept of all this is that prosecutions continue, save where immunity is, in the words of the Prime Minister, earned.”

The appeal continues.

OTHER NEWS

32 minutes ago

Labour raised £4.4m to Tories’ £290,000 in second week of campaign

32 minutes ago

Edmonton Oilers: What fans can expect from game 7

32 minutes ago

3 NCIS Stars Just Reunited For The First Time In 10 Years (But It's Not What You Think)

32 minutes ago

Sydney TikTok star Jill Clark reveals why she quit vaping

32 minutes ago

Blues greats stoked by Paps' Origin admission

32 minutes ago

Holidaymakers urged to swerve a car hire company Goldcar with two-star rating

32 minutes ago

Tom Kim keeps lead as Shane Lowry and Robert MacIntyre shoot into contention

32 minutes ago

Sydney TikTok star Jill Clark reveals why she quit vaping

32 minutes ago

Fernandez falls to Tomljanovic in quarterfinals of Rothesay Classic

32 minutes ago

TNT, 'Inside The NBA' lose another lifeline

32 minutes ago

How to watch Japan vs England FOR FREE: TV channel and live stream for rugby today

32 minutes ago

Thirteen arrested and millions of cigarettes seized across Victoria and WA

32 minutes ago

5 ways loneliness can negatively affect your health

32 minutes ago

2024 Travelers Championship scores, takeaways: Tom Kim leads Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler after Round 2

35 minutes ago

Hafeez bashed for 'ranting' to Gilchrist on Pakistan stint: ‘For God's sake, why didn't you speak when you had the job?'

35 minutes ago

Dog Treat Recall Prompts Nationwide Warning to Pet Owners

37 minutes ago

Boeing's Starliner return to Earth postponed, NASA says

37 minutes ago

Shocked fishermen rescue 38 dogs they find treading water in Mississippi lake

37 minutes ago

Rohit Sharma ‘open to changes’ in India's XI despite big win against Afghanistan in T20 World Cup

37 minutes ago

How Bumrah, Arshdeep and Pandya can mimic Australia’s successful slow-cutters plan against Bangladesh

37 minutes ago

Soccer-Netherlands coach Koeman says referee made mistake with disallowed goal

37 minutes ago

EU nations agree to start membership negotiations next week with Ukraine and Moldova

40 minutes ago

Rare Beatles footage unearthed at a Sydney flea market

44 minutes ago

Opposition Leader promises more detail on nuclear plans

44 minutes ago

Belfast rappers Kneecap to contest pulling of funding over political views

44 minutes ago

What this holiday of sacrifice teaches us about mindfulness

44 minutes ago

See Taylor Swift and Post Malone's BTS Footage of ‘Fortnight' Music Video

44 minutes ago

WATCH: Coco Gauff makes superfan tear up in special meeting in Berlin

44 minutes ago

Dwight Yorke names the young star Manchester United should sign to create 'buzz'

44 minutes ago

South Korea Considers Supplying Weapons to Ukraine

44 minutes ago

Tom Marquand living the dream as he revels in royal reunion at Ascot after winning the Coronation Stakes with Porta Fortuna - and he could meet the King again this weekend!

44 minutes ago

Netherlands coach feels VAR got it wrong over disallowed goal at Euro 2024

44 minutes ago

Why Putin's visit is worrying the West

44 minutes ago

Billionaire businessman James K. Irving dead at 96

44 minutes ago

Emma Stone shows off legs in tweed miniskirt with matching jacket as she promotes her new film Kinds Of Kindness in NYC

47 minutes ago

Dressel wins 50 metres free splash and dash to set up Paris title defence

49 minutes ago

Canada giving political space to 'Khalistani' extremists: India

49 minutes ago

Matthew Lewis doesn't 'want to do' “Harry Potter” reboot but is intrigued by idea of adult Neville

49 minutes ago

Here’s how people with $1 million or more changed their asset allocation last year

49 minutes ago

Taylor Swift forced to stop sell-out London Eras Tour show and call on security