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Minister launches consultation on privileged access to court and inquest records

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Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has announced a consultation on draft statutory rules which will provide privileged access to information contained in court and inquest files.

The proposed new rules would allow individuals requiring access to information contained in court or inquest files to receive that information privately on a confidential basis. The Public Record Office has been piloting a process of this type since January 2015.

The Minister said: “Until the pilot process was introduced, highly sensitive information of this type was being released to those who requested it under the Freedom of Information Act, meaning that it was also placed in the public domain. Clearly there was, and remains, a need to be sensitive to family members and others impacted by incidents recorded in court and inquest files, which is why my Department put in place a pilot process for obtaining such information on a confidential basis.

“The process under the Freedom of Information Act remains an option to get access to such information; however the proposed new statutory rules, as successfully demonstrated by the pilot process, provide an alternative method that avoids the publication of sensitive and often very private information.”

The Minister concluded: “My Department will continue to work closely with colleagues in DoJ and NIO to deliver the best outcome for individuals seeking to access information, and this will include reflecting on comments received in response to this consultation on the draft statutory rules.

“I thank those organisations representing victims and survivors, the members of the legal profession and the Attorney General’s Office for contributing to the development of this process. I welcome any comments or suggestions on the proposed rules and ask that these are submitted to my Department by 22 February 2016.”

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