Northern Ireland

NI historical abuse: Inquiry may face legal challenge

Inquiry hearing Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hundreds of witnesses will give evidence to the inquiry

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry could face a challenge from lawyers representing some of those accused of abuse, the BBC has learned.

The public phase of the inquiry began on Monday and, over 18 months, it will examine allegations of abuse at 13 institutions across Northern Ireland.

Two Catholic orders have already apologised for any abuse by members.

One person accused of abuse is trying to establish if there are grounds for more rights for accused individuals.

That challenge could be to the inquiry itself or through a judicial review in the High Court.

The comments by lawyers for the De La Salle Brothers and Sisters of Nazareth were made on the second day of the inquiry into historical abuse in the care homes and borstals between 1922 and 1995.

'Bygone age'

A barrister for the Health and Social Care Board said that where it had failed to meet acceptable standards, it offered its apologies to those involved.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Christine Smith QC outlined the context in which institutional care in Northern Ireland had operated

Earlier, it was told that some children's homes in Northern Ireland in the 1960s were relics of a bygone era.

Post-war welfare reforms were not adopted by some institutions, the senior counsel to the panel said.

"The evidence suggests that those homes operated as outdated survivors of a bygone age," said Christine Smith QC.

Outlining the context of institutional care in Northern Ireland, she said the status of children historically could be illustrated by the fact that while the RSPCA was set up in 1824, the NSPCC was not set up for another 60 years.

The public hearings stage of the inquiry is being held in Banbridge, County Down.

The inquiry's remit is limited to children's residential institutions in Northern Ireland.

During that time, it is due to hear evidence from more than 300 witnesses, including former residents who claim they were abused as children, the people who ran the institutions, health and social care officials and government representatives.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites