Northern Ireland: Amnesty welcomes changes to child abuse inquiry Bill

ELDERLY VICTIMS NO LONGER FACE EXCLUSION FROM INQUIRY

Amnesty International has welcomed proposed changes to the Historic Institutional Abuse Bill at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The proposed amendments to the Bill and the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry were agreed at the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister yesterday at the Assembly.

Key among the agreed changes is an extension of the remit of the Inquiry to cover all cases of child abuse in residential institutions from 1922, rather than from 1945 as originally proposed by Ministers. The 1945 start date was rejected by Amnesty International and abuse victims, as it would have excluded elderly victims. Amnesty International had given evidence to the Committee that the Bill as originally framed meant elderly victims faced "second class" treatment, as they would be denied a fair hearing by the Inquiry.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

"Amnesty International is pleased that MLAs on the Committee unanimously backed our view that the 1945 exclusion date was unfair. It is good that Ministers have finally agreed to an earlier start date, an issue which we and victims first raised with them two years ago. This change to the Bill will mean that victims, some of whom are now in their eighties or nineties, will finally get to put on the record the abuse that they experienced as Children's rights."

Amnesty International also welcomed other proposed amendments agreed yesterday, including the right of the Inquiry to publish its own report rather than simply give it to Ministers, the right of the Inquiry to request a time extension should that prove necessary, and the right of the Inquiry to make recommendations about changes to current child protection laws, policy and practice. Ministers have also agreed an increase in the budget for the Inquiry.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

"We have fought alongside abuse victims for the establishment of this Inquiry. These changes to the Bill and its Terms of Reference mean that the Inquiry can better serve the twins causes of truth and justice for victims, but will also ensure that the Inquiry can point the way to the better protection of Children's rights's rights in the future.

"We thank Ministers for bringing forward the legislation and the Committee for their work in scrutinising and improving the draft Bill. We now look forward to seeing these changes make it into law and to the Inquiry starting its work in earnest."

Find out about Amnesty's work on institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland

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