The restoration of the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland has had a spectacular impact on its legal sector. We have already reported on how the much anticipated Redress Board was up and running with High Court Judge, A Colton appointed as president. Last week also saw the first call of new QC’s to the Bar of Northern Ireland; a move held up by the lack of the Executive.
The new Justice Minister has now confirmed that she is to implement legislation to mirror the domestic abuse legislation activated in England & Wales in 2015 and in Scotland in 2019. The proposed Domestic Abuse Bill is currently with the legislative drafters and it is hoped that the final document could be brought forward within the next few months and with the co-operation of the parties and full Executive it is hoped that the Bill could be introduced by April or May 2020.
We have previously commented on issues such as “catfishing” and online bullying both being issues of concern in the area of child abuse. The instant and anonymous access of social media forums as well as the interactive nature of online gaming, create opportunities for both those intent on abuse and those intent on bullying and blackmail.
Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner, has spoken out on this issue and feels that future generations will be “astonished to think that we ever didn’t protect kids online.” She spoke in a forward thinking address while launching the Age Appropriate Design Code as a new set of privacy codes to be set by her office. Social media sites, online gaming sites and streaming services will need to abide by these new rules.
In previous blogs we have highlighted the work of the Fermanagh newspaper, The Impartial Reporter, and their coverage of abuse reports in that area and the creation of a new police taskforce to re-examine older complaints and to investigate more recent reports of historic abuse in the area.
BBC Spotlight has spoken to one of those who came to the paper and Kevin Brown has waived his anonymity to speak publicly about the abuse he reported. Mr Brown says that he was abused by at least 20 different men when he was around 12 years old and for at least another three years after that. Other victims have confirmed some of the names given by Mr Brown but those victims have retained their anonymity.
The Lord Chief Justice in NI, Declan Morgan, has appointed Mr Justice Adrian Colton to be the President of the new Redress Board. Mr Justice Colton was called to the Bar in 1983 and appointed QC in 2006. He was appointed to the High Court bench in 2015.
In 2016 he was appointed Presiding Coroner for NI and took responsibility for overseeing the management of inquests around controversial killings in Northern Ireland.
In 2017 he was appointed Senior Criminal Judge.
Following the passing of the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill in the last hours of the parliament before the recess for the December election there has been a rapid progression in the matter.
The recommendations were made in 2017 but since then, the collapse of the NI Executive and the disruption caused by Brexit and debates about who could or could not make laws for NI, little had progressed.
A masked man has spoken to the Belfast Telegraph newspaper and admitted that nine former residents of St Patricks Home in West Belfast had been responsible for an arson attack on the premises. The arson continues to be investigated by the PSNI but the man indicated that he and his accomplices were happy that there was no evidence remaining from the blaze and did not fear prosecution.
The man said he was part of a survivors group representing approximately 140 former residents of the home run by the De La Salle Order. St Patrick’s closed as a residential facility and the property was sold to a development company.
In an earlier Blog we advised of a case of ‘catfishing’ (when a person pretends to be someone else to entice victims in online scams or abuse). We highlighted the issue and we raised the concern at the liability internet providers or employers may face for failing to prevent such attacks.