In the matter of an application by Rosaleen Dalton for Judicial Review
The Supreme Court has granted the Attorney General for Northern Ireland permission to appeal against a judgment of the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal in which it quashed a decision by the (former) Attorney not to order an inquest into the death of Ms Dalton’s father under section 14 of the Coroners Act (NI) 1959. The appeal is listed for hearing in the Supreme Court on 26-27 October 2022.
Reference by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland under section 11 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998
The Northern Ireland Act 1998 establishes a process which allows the Attorney General to ask the UK Supreme Court to determine whether a provision of an Assembly Bill is within the legislative competence of the Assembly. This is a way to settle quickly what might otherwise involve lengthy litigation (and expense) in the lower courts. One of the grounds on which a Bill may be found to be outside the competence of the Assembly is if it is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Attorney has asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the offence created by Clause 5(2)(a) of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill, which does not provide for a defence of reasonable excuse, is a proportionate interference with the rights of those who wish to express opposition to abortion services in Northern Ireland. This is a legal issue distinct from any contentious policy question as to the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland. If Clause 5(2)(a) is determined by the Court to be within the competence of the Assembly, the Bill may proceed to become law. A date for hearing is awaited.