Victims challenge lord chief justice over Troubles inquests

A victims coalition has posed a series of questions to Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan on his comments about dealing with the past
A victims coalition has posed a series of questions to Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan on his comments about dealing with the past

The spokesman of a major victims’ coalition has challenged the lord chief justice’s comments that delays in providing funding for Troubles legacy inquests could frustrate justice.

Speaking to the BBC on Thursday, the Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) Sir Declan Morgan said the state has a legal obligation to hold 56 legacy inquests into 98 controversial Troubles-related deaths and that a failure to do so could frustrate the rule of law.

He said the Executive must address the issue urgently, although the first minister and secretary of state have declined to release funding.

“I hoped that it would receive a sympathetic hearing, I was disappointed that there was no immediate response,” said Sir Declan of the first minister’s response.

He added: “All the victims and survivors need this issue to be grasped. This is the opportunity to do something about it.”

But Kenny Donaldson, of victims’ coalition Innocent Victims United, asked the LCJ to address other issues of judicial concern to victims.

“Does the PSNI’s admission covered in [Thursday’s] News Letter that [Director of Public Prosecutions] Barra McGrory is substantially directing the work of the PSNI Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) not show that the rule of law is already being frustrated?” he asked the LCJ.

The chief constable made similar comments about the DPP in February at a victims’ conference in Fermanagh, he noted.

George Hamilton explained to terror victims why their cases were not being investigated, saying that he has a legal duty, when requested by the director of public prosecutions, to carry out investigations for him.

“There are some circumstances where the director of public prosecutions can direct me to effectively conduct an investigation ... and it is actually in those cases that the majority of my legacy investigations branch officers are occupied at the moment,” he said.

Mr Donaldson also asked the LCJ if he believed that ‘comfort’ letters given to hundreds of IRA men along with royal pardons “also represents the rule of law being frustrated?”

The LCJ had not offered any comment at the time of going to press.