HARTE COYLE COLLINS SOLICITORS & ADVOCATES
PATRICIA BURNS & DANIEL MCCREADY LODGE APPLICATION TO NI COURT OF APPEAL TO PETITIION SUPREME COURT ON LEGACY PROPOSALS CHALLENGE
9th MAY 2022
Patricia Burns and Daniel McCready, relatives of two victims of the Troubles, lodged an application to the NI Court of Appeal on Friday 6th May 2022 to petition the Supreme Court in London on the Westminster government’s legacy proposals published in July 2021 The application is an appeal against the judgement from the NI Court of Appeal delivered by Lady Chief Justice Keegan on the 12th April 2022.
The NI Court of Appeal can either grant or reject the appeal. If granted the Court will refer the points of law to the Supreme Court in London. If rejected Ms Burns and Mr McCready can then petition the Supreme Court directly.
Ms Burns and Mr McCready applied to the High Court in Belfast in November 2021 for a judicial review of the proposals published by the Secretary of State in July 2021. Those proposals indicate that the Government at Westminster seeks to close all current avenues of legacy investigations, civil claims, inquests, and criminal prosecutions.
Both Ms. Burns and Mr McCready had asked the NI Court of Appeal to take the unusual step of providing an advisory judgement on the constitutionality and lawfulness of the amnesty proposals in domestic and international law. Both sought this advisory judgement prior to the publication of any such Bill to ensure that the parliamentary debate following the introduction of the Bill will be properly informed.
The Command paper was published on the 15th of July 2021, but the proposed legislation has yet to be laid before Parliament in the past 10 months despite indications that it would be published in late 2021 and March 2022. It is anticipated that the draft legislation may be referred to in the Queen’s speech on 10th May 2022.
At the hearing before the Court of Appeal on the 4th of April 2022 the Court heard from Mr Barry MacDonald QC on behalf of Ms Burns and Mr McCready that any delay in the mechanisms for investigating, examining, and prosecuting Troubles cases would be irretrievably damaging if the proposals become law.
The NI Court of Appeal dismissed the application on 12th April 2022, but Lady Chief Justice Siobhan Keegan recognised in the judgement the widespread impact of the proposals in Northern Ireland should they become law;
“Should these proposals become law, there would be an impact upon the investigations relating to the deaths of Thomas Burns and James McCann. However, the effect of any change in the law would also have a significant impact on a wider cohort of legacy litigation in this jurisdiction. Opposition to the proposals has already been expressed from a variety of quarters to the plans. “
Solicitor for the Appellants, Nichola Harte of Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Advocates said today.
“Our clients have instructed us to pursue their challenge to the legacy proposals to the Supreme Court. It remains their view that any government attempt to close down civil claims, inquests, criminal investigations, and prosecutions is unconstitutional and in breach of the Good Friday Agreement and their Convention rights protected by the 1998 Human Rights Act. Our clients will continue to seek an advisory judgement from the courts in order to inform and educate Parliament should this Bill be published. To deny citizens access to justice and to interfere with prosecutorial and judicial functioning is undemocratic and against the rule of law.”
The Appellants are represented by Nichola Harte and Patricia Coyle of Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Advocates, Senior Counsel Barry MacDonald QC, SC, and Junior Counsel Malachy McGowan BL