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Inquiry Into Historical Institutional Abuse Act (Northern Ireland) 2013

Section 8: Restrictions on public access, etc.

This section enables the chairperson, during the course of the inquiry, to issue restriction orders. The purpose of such orders is to restrict attendance at all or part of the inquiry; to restrict disclosure of information in the context of the inquiry; to restrict disclosure by those who have received the information only by virtue of it being given to the inquiry; or to restrict the disclosure of a person’s identity.

Subsection (4) sets out a number of matters that must be taken into account when determining whether it is in the public interest to issue a restriction order.

Subsection (4)(c) covers cases in which the chairperson’s powers of compulsion have been used to override confidentiality restrictions, so that information can be provided to the inquiry by enabling the chairperson to consider preventing the information from wider disclosure.

Subsection (5) enables the chairperson to vary restriction orders. This allows for situations in which it becomes apparent that more information can be made public than was originally envisaged, or that more people can be given access to information than allowed by the original order, as well as any situations in which it becomes apparent that further restrictions are necessary.

Orders restricting attendance will be relevant only during the course of the inquiry. However, orders restricting disclosure or publication of evidence, or preventing the identification of witnesses, may need to continue beyond the end of the inquiry. Unless the chairperson specifies in a restriction order when it will end, varies it, or revokes it under Subsection (6), the order will remain in force indefinitely.

Subsection (7) is designed to ensure that restrictions do not create a barrier to disclosure of information from inquiry records under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

In due course, after the end of the inquiry, circumstances may change in a way which requires an order to be varied or revoked, Subsection (8) will therefore give OFMDFM the power to revoke or vary a restriction order after the inquiry ends.

Restrictions under this section could prevent a person from passing on information that he/she learned through involvement in, or attendance at, the inquiry. Nothing in this section is intended to prevent witnesses from passing on evidence that they themselves have given to the inquiry, either during the inquiry or after it has ended.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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