20 September 2023

Law Society criticises Legacy Act as ‘attack on rule of law’ ahead of conference

20 September 2023

The representative body for solicitors in Northern Ireland has voiced its opposition to new legislation aimed at addressing the legacy of the past as an “attack on the rule of law”.

Legal professionals and groups representing those bereaved and impacted by the Troubles will be brought together at the Law Society’s annual conference in Belfast later this month to discuss the legacy act and legal challenges.

On Wednesday, the High Court in Belfast heard that 16 legal challenges have been lodged so far against the UK Government’s controversial new laws.

The hearing came just days after the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act received royal assent on Monday despite widespread opposition from political parties, victims’ organisations in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government.

The act will include a limited form of immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences to those who co-operate with the new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery.

It will also halt future civil cases and inquests.

The Law Society said its annual conference this year will focus on the act, adding the organisation has been a “strong and vocal critic of this legislation from its inception and throughout its passage through Parliament”.

Brian Archer, president of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, blasted the measures as an “attack on the rule of law”.

It is vitally important that the voice of our profession is heard, and we must seize this opportunity to speak truth to power

“Our concerns include that the act will bring to an end all civil actions emanating from the conflict in Northern Ireland in respect of proceedings issued after May 17 2022 and will stop any legacy inquests that have not reached an advanced stage by May 29 2024,” he said.

“These measures are an attack on the rule of law.

“The view of the Law Society is that the legislation is incompatible with the obligations imposed on the UK by the European Convention on Human Rights as incorporated by the Human Rights Act 1998.”

Mr Archer added: “The society remains committed to championing the rule of law and access to justice and has convened this conference to allow the legal profession, victims’ groups, and other interested organisations an opportunity to discuss our response to the legislation.

“This may include legal challenges to the legislation by way of judicial review.

“It is vitally important that the voice of our profession is heard, and we must seize this opportunity to speak truth to power.”

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