Northern Ireland

Woman fails to be included in Stormont abuse inquiry

Belfast High Court
Image caption The case was heard at Belfast High Court

A woman allegedly abused in foster care has failed in a legal challenge to being kept out of an inquiry into historic abuse at children's homes.

Her case was dismissed on the basis that it was brought well outside a 14-day time limit for seeking to judicially review her exclusion.

The inquiry was announced by the Northern Ireland Executive in 2010.

It followed a damning report in the Republic of Ireland into decades of abuse in some religious institutions.

With the inquiry set to get under way early next year, a judge said it was never intended to widen the tribunal's scope.

Any extension of its remit would mean it could not complete its work on time or in budget, Belfast High Court was told.

Mr Justice Treacy's verdict appears to have closed the door to others who claim they were abused while being fostered.

Headed by the retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, it will examine claims of abuse in children's homes, care institutions and borstals between 1922 and 1995.

The woman at the centre of the legal challenge cannot be identified.

She claims she was abused after being taken into care and put into a foster home by social services in the early 1990s.

Although she wanted to participate in the inquiry, she was informed earlier this year that her case did not fall within its terms of reference.

Seeking to judicially review that decision, her legal team contended it was the state who placed her into foster care.

According to them the inquiry is looking into any alleged failings by institutions or the state.

Counsel for the inquiry argued, however, that foster care cases were never intended to be part of its remit.

The court was also told of a stipulation that any judicial review proceedings must be brought within 14 days of being informed of the inquiry's decision.

Outside time limit

It made little difference whether that was in April or June this year in the woman's case, according to Mr Justice Treacy.

"The proceedings were issued in either event well outside the time limit," he said.

"No sufficient reason has been advanced to explain the delay, and no sufficient reason was given to persuade me that it would be appropriate to extend time."

Dismissing the application for leave to seek a judicial review, the judge added that neither the Stormont Executive or Assembly intended the inquiry's remit to include investigating alleged foster care abuse.