Law and religion round-up – 27th March

A week totally overshadowed by the atrocities in Brussels…


Abortion guidelines in Nothern Ireland

The BBC reports that the Northern Ireland Executive has published new abortion guidelines for the medical profession.

It’s a long story. As we have noted on numerous occasions, Northern Ireland’s abortion law is much more restrictive that the law in Great Britain: it is only permitted if the woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health. Most recently, as a sequel to his judgment in Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Re Judicial Review [2015] NIQB 96, Horner J concluded that the current law breached Article 8 ECHR (private and family life) because it did not provide adequate protection for the human rights of pregnant women where there was a serious malformation of the foetus or a fatal foetal abnormality or where the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. He therefore made a declaration of incompatibility under the Human Rights Act 1998.

The end of ecclesiastical exemption in Northern Ireland?

And while we’re in Northern Ireland… The Province currently has over 900 listed churches and one listed synagogue; and those in active use as places of worship are exempt from listed building consent for alterations. On Monday, Environment Minister Mark Durkan launched a consultation on a proposal to remove the ecclesiastical exemption. He notes that ecclesiastical exemption is common across the UK but points out that the parallel systems of control for named denominations used elsewhere were never introduced in Northern Ireland. Continue reading