Abortion case court hearing set for June

Attorney General John Larkin has challenged a previous High Court verdict
Attorney General John Larkin has challenged a previous High Court verdict

Appeals against a ruling that abortion law in Northern Ireland is incompatible with human rights legislation will be heard in June.

Stormont’s Justice Minister David Ford and Attorney General John Larkin QC are both challenging the landmark High Court verdict.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has set aside four days, beginning on June 20, to hear all further legal arguments in the case.

Northern Ireland’s Human Rights Commission, who issued the original proceedings against the Department of Justice, is also mounting a cross-appeal to grounds on which it was unsuccessful.

The body is seeking findings that the current laws are inhuman, degrading and discriminatory.

Last year a judge held that the provisions for abortion breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

He ruled that the failure to provide exceptions to the ban for fatal foetal abnormalities (FFAs) and victims of rape or incest contravenes entitlements to respect for private and family life.

Unlike other parts of the UK, abortions are currently only legal in Northern Ireland within the region to protect the woman’s life or if there is a risk of serious damage to her well-being.

Judicial review proceedings were issued after the Department of Justice launched a public consultation on amending the criminal law.

That process concluded with a recommendation for new legislation dealing with cases of FFA.