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Court: Northern Ireland Queens Bench Division

The Rule of Law must Prevail on Northern Ireland Victims Pensions

In the matter of McNern [2020] NIQB 57

 In forthright terms the High Court has held that the Executive Office that combines the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are acting unlawfully in their delay in bringing into effect the Troubles Pension Scheme. This in not only because the statute required the Scheme to be operational by 29 May 2020, but because the political reasons for the delay have been deliberately adopted in order to frustrate the aims and purposes of the legislation.

Jennifer McNern and her sister were victims of the Abercorn Café bombing in Belfast in March 1972.  Mrs McNern has struggled for many years along with the Wave Survivors Group to force acknowledgement of the life changing physical and psychological injuries that were caused during the Troubles. They are part of a generation of victims who have been left with no other remedy than the this long awaited pension.  

Search warrants against investigative journalists quashed in Northern Ireland

In the matter of an application by Fine Point films MOR11288

This case is concerned with the circumstances in which police can use the ex parte procedure contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (“PACE”) to obtain a search warrant in respect of journalistic material. The applicants seek orders quashing warrants issued to a police detective of the serious crime branch of the PSNI on 10 August 2018 authorising the search of the homes of the second and third applicants and the business premises of each of them in connection with the investigation of offences of theft, handling stolen goods, unlawful disclosure of information entrusted in confidence and unlawfully obtaining personal data.

Held: the order for the warrants are quashed. It is a fundamental principle of any ex parte hearing that it also be a fair hearing. That is particularly the case where the object of the application is to significantly intrude into the private and family lives of those affected.  The court should have imposed a heavy onus on those seeking to pursue ex parte proceedings to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the proceedings are fair.

Although there was some acknowledgement of the importance of journalists in a democratic society in the course of the hearing the judge was not advised that Article 10 Convention rights were engaged, nor was he provided with any of the relevant jurisprudence nor was it made clear to him that a warrant such as this sought could only be justified by an overriding requirement in the public interest. This issue was absolutely fundamental to whether or not a warrant should be issued and the failure to address it means that we can have no confidence that the trial judge applied the right test.

The conduct of this hearing fell woefully short of the standard required to ensure that the hearing was fair.  That was sufficient for our decision to quash the warrant.  

Police Service of Northern Ireland decision to terminate 2014 investigation into the “interrogation in depth” of detainees in 1971 quashed

McGuigan’s & Anor’s Application for Judicial Review, Re [2017] NIQB 96

This case concerns the ‘Hooded Men’, 14 men from Northern Ireland who were subjected to interrogation techniques in 1971, including prolonged hooding, referred to as “the five techniques”. Their treatment led to the case of Ireland v. UK, determined by the ECtHR in the 1970s. The applicants were one of the Hooded Men, and the […]

Unqualified allegation of safeguarding issues considered defamatory

Kelly v Facebook Ireland Ltd & Anor (BUR10442)

A defamation claim was submitted in accordance with the Defamation Act 1996, s 2 and 4(2), relating to certain words used and published on the Facebook page “Concerned Parents of De La Salle”. The court could not support the submission by the defendants as to the meaning they attributed to the postings as they related […]