Uk Government review of the powers of the NIHRC
In response to concerns expressed about the limited powers of the proposed Northern
Ireland Human Rights Commission, the UK Government made provision in section
69(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 for the newly appointed Commission to report
on the effectiveness of its powers within two years of its creation.
Shortly before that report was submitted, in February 2001, the Northern Ireland High
Court ruled, in December 2000, that the Commission had no power to intervene in
court proceedings or to be a “friend of the court” (amicus curiae), despite the fact that
the Government had indicated to Parliament that an express provision to that effect
was unnecessary. In its report of February 2001 the Commission therefore
recommended a large number of amendments to the Northern Ireland Act, not only to
strengthen its powers of investigation but also to clarify the incidental and ancillary
powers that had not been expressly conferred by the Act. This report is available on
the Commission’s website, at www.nihrc.org. In April 2001 the Northern Ireland
Court of Appeal confirmed the High Court’s ruling, thereby justifying the
Commission’s precautionary recommendations.