Northern Ireland

HIA witness ruling overturned by Court of Appeal

The Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry is taking place in Banbridge courthouse, County Down
Image caption The Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry is sitting at Banbridge courthouse, County Down

A woman who wants to testify at the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) is not entitled to legal representation at public expense, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The decision overturned an earlier ruling by the High Court.

The inquiry had said witnesses did not need legal representation, nor should it be met by public funding.

In January, the High Court said that decision was wrong, but on Friday the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling.

The inquiry is examining allegations of child abuse in children's homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995.

It is the biggest child abuse public inquiry ever held in the UK.

The witness, known as BP, wants to give evidence regarding alleged abuse she suffered while living in institutions run by the Order of the Sisters of Nazareth.

She also wants to give evidence of being sexually abused by an outside and independent person (referred to in court as X) during the period when she was in care.

She made an application for legal representation at the inquiry as it was envisaged that her allegations would be robustly rejected and challenged in public.

BP has suffered from severe mental health issues and is currently serving a prison sentence. She submitted that being questioned in public on her background could amount to a significant detriment being cast on her character.

BP's request for legal representation was refused. She then asked for an oral hearing before the chairman, Sir Anthony Hart. Her application was again rejected.

She challenged this decision by way of judicial review and the High Court ruled in her favour.

However, that ruling was appealed by the HIA.

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