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North Troubles legacy Act: Legal challenges to laws must be heard in November, judge says

A judge at Belfast's Royal Courts of Justice said legal challenges to the Northern Ireland Troubles legacy Act must be heard in November. File photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Legal challenges to the provisions of the UK government’s new Northern Ireland Troubles legacy Act must be heard in November, a High Court judge in Belfast has said.

Mr Justice Colton was also told the number of judicial review applications against the act has now grown to 19.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act received royal assent last week despite widespread opposition from political parties, victims’ organisations in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government.

Aspects of the laws 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.

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It will also halt future civil cases and inquests.

A number of relatives of Troubles victims gathered at the Royal Courts of Justice for an update on their legal fight against the new laws.

Lawyers for those mounting the challenges claim the legislation is unconstitutional, unlawful and incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

During a review last week, Mr Justice Colton urged all lawyers to identify lead cases in a bid to streamline and fast-track proceedings.

Mr Justice Colton said he would give directions next week as to how the case should proceed.

Representing the UK government, barrister Tony McGleenan KC said: “We have received a large number of position papers, some of them overnight. There are now 19 judicial reviews.”

Mr Justice Colton said: “I should indicate in terms of hearing the case, my intention is to list these cases. I will set aside a week on November 13.

“I know that it is going to be impossible to please everybody but we have to pick a target date here. Not everybody here will be appearing, we can’t accommodate everybody.

“If the lead counsel in the case want to discuss dates, but it has to be in and around that time, this case has to be heard sometime in November. If you can’t agree I will simply have to set a date.”

Legal firms Madden & Finucane, KRW Law, O Muirigh Solicitors, Phoenix Law and victims campaigner Raymond McCord are among those who are taking legal action over the legislation. – PA