More than 70 emergency civil actions have been launched over an alleged attempt by the British Government to shut down Troubles-era inquests and civil actions.
A Belfast law firm revealed that the writs were issued on Tuesday in response to new legislation being brought forward to deal with the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill involves immunity from prosecution being offered to some, depending on co-operation with investigations run by a new information recovery body.
But KRW Law branded the plans a legislative “sleight of hand” and described the way they were introduced on Tuesday as “disingenuous”.
In a statement, the firm said no prior indication was given that a section would be inserted to exclude any civil action issued on the day of the first reading of the Bill before Parliament.
It claimed the move breaches the Article 6 right to fair hearing protected by European law.
“Our entire office staff were involved throughout the day in issuing 76 emergency High Court actions against the State, alleging various torts including misfeasance (collusion), failure to investigate and extra judicial killings and executions,” it said.
“At the start of the day we had no inkling that a crude and unjust line would be drawn to guillotine any cases issued on the day of the first reading.
“It will lead to an inevitable judicial review challenge if there’s an attempt to exclude these freshly issued cases.”
The statement added: “To compound the problem, the Government is now trying to shut down inquests which haven’t reached a certain advanced status.
“It is no coincidence that collusion is alleged in the bulk of those extant inquests, with many British Army killing cases having already been through the Coronial system.
“Standing back, it all smacks of Governmental sleight of hand, designed to stop a repeat of the sort of bad news days seen only last Thursday when the PSNI were forced to issue a public apology to the family of murdered GAA official Sean Brown over a hopelessly failed murder investigation.
“Our suspicions following the publication of the Command Statement issued in July 2021 that civil cases and inquests were the real target of the Government legacy proposals have now been confirmed.”