James Brokenshire offers 'clear and unequivocal' support for Lord Chief Justice

Lady Sylvia Hermon

Lady Sylvia Hermon

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has offered "very clear and unequivocal" support to the country's Lord Chief Justice and director of public prosecutions, days after he criticised investigations into murders during the Troubles.

His comments came under pressure from North Down MP Lady Hermon, who urged the minister to place on record his full confidence in the pair.

Mr Brokenshire wrote a weekend article in the Daily Telegraph saying the system for investigating murders during the Troubles was not working as it was focusing on soldiers rather than terrorists.

Speaking at Northern Ireland Questions, Lady Hermon said: "In dealing with the security situation in Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State will recognise how important the Northern Ireland Office sends out a very clear message that the rule of law prevails in Northern Ireland.

"So would he kindly take this opportunity to put on the record his full confidence in the independence and integrity of the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, and indeed the DPP?"

Mr Brokenshire said: "I am very happy to do, in very clear and unequivocal terms.

"It is essential that we uphold the rule of law without fear or favour, and I absolutely support the work of the police, of all of those responsible for taking forward and seeing those that are committing the acts we've just discussed this morning are held to account and brought to justice."

Earlier, Mr Brokenshire had said there were "important issues" to be examined in relation to the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.

His comments came after former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers said the courts tended to "let terrorists out on bail, sometimes even only weeks after an original arrest has taken place".

Mr Brokenshire said: "There are important issues that need to be examined and addressed in relation to the criminal justice system.

"Bail is one part of that, but also sentencing and the time it takes for cases to proceed.

"That is something we will continue to work the Executive on, to see that progress can be made."