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Fundamental rights - Northern Ireland

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National Courts

National Human Rights Institutions

Ombudsperson

Specialised human rights bodies

Other

National Courts

1. Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service

Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunals Service is responsible for the administration of the criminal, civil and family courts and tribunals in England and Wales and non-devolved tribunals in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It provides for a fair, efficient and effective justice system delivered by an independent judiciary.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service aims to ensure that all citizens receive timely access to justice according to their different needs, whether as victims or witnesses of crime, defendants accused of crimes, consumers in debt, children at risk of harm, businesses involved in commercial disputes or as individuals asserting their employment rights or challenging the decisions of government bodies.

For information about contacting courts see: Link opens in new windowhttp://www.justice.gov.uk/global/contacts/hmcts/courts/index.htm

For information about contacting tribunals see: Link opens in new windowhttp://www.justice.gov.uk/global/contacts/hmcts/tribunals/index.htm

2. Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service

The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) is an agency of the Department of Justice for Northern Ireland. It provides administrative support to the Northern Ireland’s courts, i.e. the Court of Appeal, High Court, Crown Court, County Courts, Magistrates’ Courts and Coroner’s Courts. It also provides administrative support for tribunals, enforces civil court judgments through the Enforcement of Judgments Office; and sponsors the work of the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission.

Web: Link opens in new windowhttp://www.courtsni.gov.uk/

Contact details: Link opens in new windowhttp://www.courtsni.gov.uk/en-GB/ContactDetails/

Additional Information

Civil proceedings

Proceedings in Northern Ireland are similar to those in England and Wales. County court proceedings are commenced by a civil bill served on the defendant. Judgements of civil courts are enforceable through a centralised procedure administered by the Enforcement of Judgments Office.

Legal aid

  1. In all three jurisdictions of the UK there is a comprehensive system whereby a person in need of legal advice or representation in court may receive financial assistance out of public funds. These schemes are referred to as “Legal Aid” and are fundamental to the realisation of each individual’s legal rights. Legal aid is aimed at those on low and modest incomes and may be granted in full, or subject to financial contribution by the individual. If legal aid is granted, the case is conducted in the normal way, except that no money passes between the individual and their solicitor: all payments are made through the legal aid fund.
  2. In Northern Ireland, the provision of legal aid is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission. Eligibility for legal aid in civil or criminal matters is determined by a means and merits test.
  3. If a person feels that their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights have been violated and intend to bring their case before the European Court of Human Rights there are number of schemes available to provide them with legal advice and assistance. Under the legal help scheme, a person may be assisted by an experienced solicitor or legal advisor in the preliminary stages of their application. If the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg declares an application admissible, an applicant may get financial assistance directly from Strasbourg. Eligibility is determined on the basis of whether or not an applicant would be eligible for domestic legal aid.
  4. In a number of urban areas, law centres provide legal advice and representation which may be free depending on means. Law centres, which are financed from various sources, often including local government authorities, usually employ full-time salaried lawyers; but many also have community workers. Much of their time is devoted to housing, employment, social security and immigration problems. Free advice is also available in Citizens Advice Bureaux, consumer and housing advice centres and in specialist advice centres run by various voluntary organisations. The Refugee Legal Centre and the Immigration Advisory Service, both of which receive government funding, provide free advice and assistance to asylum seekers, and the Immigration Advisory Service also provides free advice and assistance to persons with immigration rights of appeal.

Victims of crime

  1. The courts may order an offender, on conviction, to pay compensation to the victim for personal injury, loss or damage resulting from an offence. In England and Wales the courts are obliged to consider compensation in every appropriate case and to give reasons where no compensation is awarded. Compensation for a victim must come ahead of a fine if the court is considering both, and the recovery of amounts awarded in compensation must be put ahead of recovery of fines.
  2. Where the Crown Prosecution Service declines to prosecute, victims may prosecute privately in England and Wales, but in practice seldom do so. Victims may also sue for damages in the civil courts. Court procedure has been simplified so that persons without legal knowledge can bring small claims for loss or damage.
  3. Victims of any nationality who suffer injury as a result of violent crime in England, Wales or Scotland may apply for compensation from public funds under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. Compensation is based on a tariff of awards, and payments range from £1,000 to £500,000 for the most seriously injured victim.
  4. Separate arrangements exist in Northern Ireland, where compensation can in certain circumstances be paid from public funds for criminal injuries, and for malicious damage to property, including the resulting loss of profits.
  5. There are three organisations in the UK that provide generic support to victims of crime: Victim Support – which covers England and Wales – Victim Support Scotland and Victim Support Northern Ireland. These receive funding from the government.
  6. In June 1996 the Government published a new Victim’s Charter which was subsequently made a statutory requirement through the Victims Code of Practice in April 2006. Victims now have the legal right to a high quality of service from the criminal justice agencies. The code also tells victims how to complain if they do not receive a high quality of service. The introduction of the Witness Charter gave witnesses a similar, but non-statutory, set of standards of service. A separate Code of Practice for victims of crime has been published in Northern Ireland, which sets out the standards of service which victims should receive during their contact with the NI criminal justice system and how to make a complaint. All victims of reported crime are given a “Victims of crime” leaflet which gives practical advice about what to do in the aftermath of a crime. It explains simply the police and court processes, how to apply for compensation and what further help is available.

National Human Rights Institutions

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission works vigorously and independently to ensure that the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland are fully and firmly protected in law, policy and practice.

To that end the Commission measures law, policy and practice in Northern Ireland against internationally accepted rules and principles for the protection of human rights and ensures that they are promoted, adopted and applied throughout Northern Ireland.

It does not normally take on individual legal cases although may be able to provide guidance on the most appropriate place to assist with your particular circumstances.

The NIHRC is an independent statutory body set up in 1999. Its role is to promote awareness of the importance of human rights in Northern Ireland, to review existing law and practice, and to advise government on what steps need to be taken to protect human rights in Northern Ireland. It is able to conduct Link opens in new windowinvestigations, to assist individuals when they are bringing Link opens in new windowcourt proceedings, and to bring court proceedings itself.

Web: Link opens in new windowhttp://www.nihrc.org/

Contact Details:

Temple Court
39 North Street
Belfast
Northern Ireland
BT1 1NA
Tel: +44 (0)28 9024 3987

Ombudsperson

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

This ombudsman exists to provide a service to the public by undertaking independent investigations into complaints that government departments, a range of other public bodies in the UK, and the NHS in England have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service.

Link opens in new windowhttp://www.ombudsman.org.uk/

Contact Details

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower
Millbank
London
SW1P 4QP

Specialised human rights bodies

  • Ombudsperson for rights of the child

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People

The Commissioner is Patricia Lewsley and her role is to safeguard and protect the rights and well being of children and young people in Northern Ireland.

Link opens in new windowhttp://www.niccy.org/

Contact Details:

NICCY
Millennium House
17-25 Great Victoria Street
Belfast
Northern Ireland BT2 7BA
Tel: 028 9031 1616
Email: Link opens in new windowinfo@niccy.org

Corporate objectives:

  • Promote a better understanding of children’s rights
  • Review the adequacy and effectiveness of law, practice and services relating to children and young people
  • Advise Government and relevant authorities on the rights and best interests of children and young people
  • Communicate the functions of the Commissioner among children, their parents or carers and our stakeholders
  • Ascertain the views of children and young people in relation to issues which affect their lives
  • Maintain and further develop effective governance arrangements in line with best practice to maximise efficient, effective and economical use of our resources
  • Equality Body

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

Contact details:

Equality House
7-9 Shaftesbury Square
Belfast
Northern Ireland BT 2 7DP
Tel: 028 90 500 600
Email: Link opens in new windowinformation@equalityni.org
Web:Link opens in new window http://www.equalityni.org

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is an independent public body established under the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

The Equality Commission has the vision of Northern Ireland as a shared, integrated and inclusive place, a society where difference is respected and valued, based on equality and fairness for the entire community.

Its mission is to advance equality, promote equality of opportunity, encourage good relations and challenge discrimination through promotion, advice and enforcement.

  • Data Protection Body

1. The Information Commissioner

The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals

Contact Details

Link opens in new windowhttp://www.ico.gov.uk/
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 (or 01625 545745 if you would prefer not to call an ‘03’ number, or +44 1625 545745 if calling from overseas)

2. Information Commissioner - Regional office

Northern Ireland

Information Commissioner's Office – Northern Ireland
51 Adelaide Street
Belfast,
Northern Ireland BT2 8FE
Tel: 028 9026 9380
Email: Link opens in new windowni@ico.gsi.gov.uk

Other

1. WEBSITE - Directgov

The Official UK Government website for citizens of the UK.

Link opens in new windowhttp://www.gov.uk

2. Citizens Advice Service

The Citizens Advice service helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice, and by influencing policy makers.

Link opens in new windowhttp:/http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Contact details

To contact the Citizens Advice Service, click on Link opens in new windowhttp://www.gov.uk Link opens in new windowhttp://www.gov.uk

3. Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission

The Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission mission and aim is to promote fair and equal access to justice in Northern Ireland in its provision of publicly funded legal services. Its aim is to provide high quality, customer focused services that target those in greatest need and demonstrate value for money.

The Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission funds lawyers and other advice providers to help people who are eligible for legal aid to protect their rights in civil matters and to help people who are under investigation, or facing criminal charges.

Contact details:

The Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission
2nd Floor,
Waterfront Plaza,
8 Laganbank Road,
Mays Meadow,
Belfast,
Northern Ireland BT1 3BN
Tel: +44 (0)28 9040 8888
Fax: +44 (0)28 9040 8990
Web:Link opens in new window http://www.nilsc.org.uk

Its mission is to promote fair and equal access to justice in Northern Ireland in its provision of publicly funded legal services.

Its aim is to provide high quality, customer focused services that target those in greatest need and demonstrate value for money.

They lawyers and other advice providers:

  • to help people who are eligible for legal aid to protect their rights in civil matters
  • to help people who are under investigation, or facing criminal charges

4. The Victims’ Commissioner

Link opens in new windowhttp://www.justice.gov.uk/about/vc/index.htm

The role of the Victims’ Commissioner is to promote the interests of victims and witnesses, encourage good practice in their treatment, and regularly review the Code of Practice for Victims which sets out the services victims can expect to receive.

By law, the Commissioner is not allowed to intervene in specific cases but can provide direction on where to get the best advice and support.

5. Victim Support Northern Ireland

Contact Details:

Central Office
Victim Support NI
Annsgate House
3rd Floor
70/74 Ann Street
Belfast
Northern Ireland BT 1 4EH
Tel: 028 9024 4039
Email: Link opens in new windowinfo@victimsupportni.org.uk

Victim Support Northern Ireland is the charity which helps people affected by any type of crime. We provide emotional support, information and practical help to victims, witnesses and others affected by crime.

Victim Support NI is the leading charity supporting people affected by crime. We offer a free and confidential service, whether or not a crime has been reported. We are an independent organisation - not part of the police, courts or any other criminal justice agency.

Each year Victim Support NI offers help to almost 30,000 people who have been affected by crime.

6. The Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland

22nd Floor
Windsor House
Bedford Street
Belfast
Northern Ireland BT 2 7FT
Tel: 028 90 44 3982
Freephone: 0800 7836317
Email: Link opens in new windowpa@prisonerombudsman.x.gsi.gov.uk
Link opens in new windowhttp://www.niprisonerombudsman.gov.uk/

The Prisoner Ombudsman is appointed by the Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland and is completely independent of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

The Prisoner Ombudsman investigates complaints from prisoners held in Northern Ireland who remain unhappy with the answer they have received from the Prison Service.

From the 1 February 2010, visitors to prisons in Northern Ireland can refer their complaint to the Prisoner Ombudsman once the complaint has been first responded to by the Prison Service.

The Prisoner Ombudsman also investigates all deaths in prison service custody in Northern Ireland.

7. The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner

Contact Details:

5th Floor
Counting House
53 Tooley Street
London
SE1 2QN
Telephone: 0845 000 0046

The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) is an independent, non-departmental public body set up under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

The OISC's key responsibilities are:

  • regulating immigration advisers
  • promoting good practice by setting standards
  • accepting and addressing complaints about anyone giving immigration advice
  • prosecuting those who operate outside of the law
  • oversight of the regulation of those who give immigration advice and are regulated by one of the Designated Professional Bodies

The OISC does not provide immigration advice or recommend or endorse a specific adviser.

The OISC works with a wide range of organisations, including professional associations, tribunals, the UK Border Agency and voluntary bodies.

For further information see: Link opens in new windowhttp://www.oisc.gov.uk


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Last update: 25/07/2012