HC Deb 17 December 2001 vol 377 cc39-40W
Lembit Öpik

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if the Government intend to change the law to comply with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights delivered on 4 May in the cases of Jordanv. UK, Kelly v. UK, McKerr v. UK and Shanaghan v. UK; and if he will make a statement. [22458]

Jane Kennedy

As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, the Government take very seriously the findings of the European Court of Human Rights. The Court's 4 May judgments identified a procedural breach of Article 2 of the Convention with respect to the regimes in place at the time to investigate deaths caused by the security forces. However, the Court was not prescriptive about the mechanisms the Government should put in place in order to comply with their obligations under Article 2. This is a matter for the Government to determine in consultation with the Committee of Ministers (the Council of Europe body that oversees the implementation of European Court judgments) in Strasbourg.

The Government are giving active consideration to a package of measures necessary to satisfy our Article 2 obligations and have already been in contact with the Committee of Ministers. Finalising the package of measures has proved a detailed exercise, requiring wide-ranging consultation across Government Departments, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on such discussions.

I should point out that some areas that caused the Court concern have already been addressed, notably through the establishment of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. The Government have also indicated the strong likelihood that they will remove Rule 9(2) of the Coroners Rules (Northern Ireland) 1963, dealing with compellability, and the Belfast Coroner was so advised on 14 September.

The Government are committed publicly to finalising their response in time for the next meeting of the Committee of Ministers, expected in February 2002. Our final decision with respect to the changes that we intend to make to comply with Article 2 will therefore be a matter of public knowledge very shortly.