Holy Cross, the ECHR and (sigh) the NIHRC

A couple of months ago the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed an application brought against the PSNI by a mother and daughter who were arguing that several of their rights under the The European Convention of Human Rights had been denied during the Holy Cross dispute.

The ECHR’s explanation for their decision is interesting enough in itself and can be read here; the history of the case is even more intriguing for seasoned observers of the local Human Rights Industry and, in particular, of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC).

The Holy Cross dispute happened during Brice Dickson’s tenure as Chief Commissioner of the NIHRC and ultimately led to the resignation of  Commissioners and the ‘withdrawal’ of two others. Dickson had disagreed with a decision of the NIHRC’s casework committee to support the parent’s legal challenge to the policing of the dispute and wrote a letter outlining those disagreements  to the then Chief Constable. The letter, inevitably, entered the “public domain” during the legal proceedings, causing all sorts of internal ructions within the NIHRC.  The Commission, under the new leadership of Monica McWilliams, however continued to support the parent’s case through the normal stages of the N.Irish legal system and right up to the House of Lords.

 According to Wiki (yes, I know;)) the Commission continued to fund the case but having tried to dig out the information elsewhere, it’s not clear to me as to whether that support continued (or continues) to be of a financial nature. Ms McWilliams said this of the HOL appeal:

“The Commission did not take this case but intervened with the House of Lords permission as a third party on human rights legal points”

The Lords rejected the appeal and one of the Law Lords in its judgement said of the NIHRC’s intervention:

“…. the commission had “unnecessarily wasted their time” and that its intervention was of “no assistance”.”

The well-known firm of Belfast solicitors taking the case decided then to opt for the ultimate court of appeal in the European context with the result mentioned at the start of the post.

The family had (obviously) the right to start the case and it was their solicitor’s responsibility to get it as far as possible along the legal route.

But surely now there needs to be a serious examination of the role of the NIHRC at different stages in this case?

An organisation, financed by the taxpayer, has not performed the kind of competent and informed service over the full period of nine years that we have a right (and yep, taxpayers have rights as well) to expect.

Yet there has been no comment on the ECHR’s verdict by either the NIHRC and (to my knowledge anyway) in the MSM; an inconvenient verdict (in more ways than one) has been simply buried?