News & Insights: Healthcare

Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry – Supreme Court Hearing

20 March 2024

O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors today attends the Supreme Court in the matter of an application by JR222 for judicial review, representing the interests of patients, and their families, of Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

In September 2020, the Minister for Health ordered a public inquiry into abuse allegations at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.  The Inquiry commenced hearing in June 2022 and has heard, at this point, from a large number of witnesses including the families of residents and former residents of the Hospital, staff members, management, and associated agencies.  The Inquiry will report and make findings in association with events which occurred between 2nd December 1999 and 14th June 2021.

In related criminal proceedings, the Appellant in the judicial review application, JR222, faces several counts of alleged acts of abuse committed between April and June 2017.  The Appellant requested that the Inquiry be suspended until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings against her.  The Minister refused to exercise his discretion, concluding that it was unnecessary to do so.

The Appellant applied for a judicial review of the Minister’s failure to suspend the Inquiry.  That application was refused both in the High Court in Northern Ireland and in the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland.  The Appellant now seeks permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The issue which fell to be determined by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (on Appeal from the Court of Appeal (NI) was whether it is correct that under s.13 (1) of the Inquiries Act 2005 a minister can only suspend a public inquiry where the minister takes the view that it is necessary to allow for the completion of civil or criminal proceedings? From correspondence between the parties, the Minister had been advised that he could only suspend the Inquiry if he concluded that it was “necessary” to do so. The Appellant argued, amongst other things, that the Minister under s.13(1) did not have to overcome a necessity test in order to suspend an inquiry to permit completion of relevant proceedings, but instead the length of any such suspension was limited to such period as the Minister considered necessary for the completion of those proceedings.

O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors appears as a Notice Party (NP3) representing a Core Participant in the ongoing Inquiry into abuse at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.  The Notice Party in this case is the next of kin of a former adult patient, now deceased, who spent time in the Hospital as a detained patient between 2016 and 2018.

NP3 gave oral evidence to the Inquiry on 28th June 2022, and was a Notice Party to the Appellant’s application for judicial review in Northern Ireland.  The Notice Party opposed the application for judicial review, having instructed that the next of kin was “annoyed and dismayed” that the Inquiry may be suspended or otherwise impacted as a result.  Her view was reflective of the other Core Participants in the group whom O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors represent.  It is their view that the Inquiry should continue without delay.

The case is being heard on Wednesday 20th March 2024 and is expected to conclude on that date.  Judgment will be delivered at a later date. The Inquiry itself is due to reconvene in May 2024.

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