Statement on behalf of KRW Law on the Legacy Act Ruling issued today

We act on behalf of the Gilvary family whose brother Maurice was murdered in the Conflict. Their case is one of the cases within the cohort of judicial review challenges to the British Governments Legacy Act.


KRW LAW said, “The judgment in this application handed down by Mr Justice Colton is welcomed. It is a substantial judgment and will require detailed analysis. However, it is clear that the judge has found that aspects of the Legacy Act 2023 contravene the European Convention on Human Rights to which, for the time being, the UK remains a signatory. Aspects of the Legacy Act 2023 have been found to be incompatible with the ECHR. This included the contentious provisions regarding the granting of immunity.  This will come as a relief to the 100 clients whose cases were stayed upon the insistence of the State. We will now apply to reinstate those cases notwithstanding a likely application by The Government to appeal.


The judge also said that those parts of the Legacy Act seeking to prevent civil legal actions against state agencies including the PSNI and MOD lodged between 17 May and November 2023 must proceed. This is an important victory for access to justice. Civil proceedings have been an essential mechanism to obtain information for relatives and survivors.


The contentious status of the body charged with reviewing Conflict-related deaths – the ICRIR – could not be challenged as it has not yet started work, but it will be subject to judicial scrutiny.  Relatives maintain that it will not operate independent of the British government and will be incompatibility with ECHR standards and obligations.


This judgment is a blow to the British government regarding the Legacy of the Conflict in Northern Ireland. The decision will be appealed to the Court of Appeal for Northern Ireland and to UK Supreme Court. Even with expedition procedures the process will take time. No doubt the British government will maintain its intent to implement the provisions of the Act by 1st May this year.


However, politically this is becoming an increasingly problematic issue for the British government in an election year. The Legacy Act was opposed in Parliament and across communities in the North of Ireland. 


The UK government is also confronting a challenge being brought by the Irish government to have the Legacy Act declared incompatible with ECHR before the European Court of Human Rights.  


The Labour Party has committed to repealing the Legacy Act if it comes to power. That is not yet a manifesto commitment, though.


This is a bad day for the British government; it is a day is of some respite for relatives of victims and survivors of violent Conflict.


The complexities of the out-working of the Legacy of the Conflict were yesterday further exposed during the inquest into the murder of Sean Brown and the extent of British state agent involvement in his abduction and killing in 1997 and demands for an Independent human rights compliant public inquiry into his killing out-with any of the pernicious and divisive provisions of the Legacy Act now under judicial scrutiny and not easily dismissed by the present British government.”