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Stormont under legal duty to fund Troubles pension, judges say

Brian Turley, who suffered mental health problems due to Army interrogation, brought the case at Belfast’s Royal Courts of Justice.
Feb 9th 2021, 3:39 PM 7,003 7

NORTHERN IRELAND’S HIGHEST court has said Stormont ministers have a legal duty to fund a pension for badly-injured conflict victims.

Administrations in London and Belfast are in dispute over who will pay the estimated £800 million cost of financial support for those most badly-injured during the decades of violence.

Brian Turley, who suffered mental health problems due to British Army interrogation, brought the case at Belfast’s Royal Courts of Justice.

There has been past political disagreement over whether anyone convicted of inflicting serious harm during the Troubles should qualify for payments and over who should fund the scheme.

A statement on behalf of the Court of Appeal said: “The court declared that there is a legal duty on the Executive Office to fund victims’ payments and lump sums under the 2020 (Victim Payment) Regulations so that the (Victims Payments) Board can make the necessary payments in accordance with Regulation 23.

“It expressed no view on the dispute between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) on the source of the funding.

“The court adjourned the appeal for four weeks to allow the parties to find an agreed solution.”

The scheme covers violence related to the Troubles between 1966 and 2010.

People would receive between £2,000 and £10,000 a year for the rest of their lives.

It is a recognition that criminal injuries awards from decades ago were largely inadequate.

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Turley is one of those known as the “Hooded Men” who were arrested and interrogated by the Army in 1971.

He said: “Today’s judgment confirms that there is no justifiable reason for delaying the payments to victims.

“The need to keep taking cases to court to obtain what I am entitled to is another form of torture.

“I welcome the Lord Chief Justice’s comments that no further delay will be tolerated and look forward to seeing this matter resolved before March 5.”

The allocation within next year’s draft budget for the Executive Office to cover implementation costs does not stretch to the actual payments, a senior civil servant told a Stormont committee recently.

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