Statement by Peter Hain on the Northern Ireland on the issuing of Death certificates for the disappeared, (4 May 2007)
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Extracts from a Statement by Peter Hain, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on the issuing of Death certificates for the disappeared, (4 May 2007)
The Secretary of State, Peter Hain, has pledged to introduce new legislation to ease the pain suffered by the relatives of the disappeared.
The legislation would allow for the issuing of death certificates in cases where it has not been possible to locate the remains of a victim.
Announcing the proposal today, Mr Hain said:
"In August 2006 the British and Irish Governments announced fresh efforts to locate and recover the remains of the disappeared. The work carried out by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) is ongoing.
However, for the families of those whose remains cannot be located, the fact remains that without a body being found it is not possible, under the law as it stands for the deaths to be registered and a certificate issued. The families have expressed the view to NIO Ministers that having a death certificate would bring great comfort to them. While I am pleased that the efforts to locate the bodies of the disappeared are encouraging and continuing, I am of the view that something should be done to help the families obtain some measure of closure.
The Government has produced proposals for new legislation which would allow the deaths, not only of the disappeared but other people who have been missing for as long as seven years, to be registered and death certificates issued."
Mr Hain said that the measures will be taken forward by the incoming Assembly and Executive:
"The new Minister of Finance & Personnel has agreed that work on these proposals will proceed under his direction, with the restored Executive taking forward the necessary legislation in its programme for the coming year.quot;
New legislation for Northern Ireland could be modelled on the Presumption of Death (Scotland) Act 1977. That legislation allows a spouse or other family member to apply to a court for a declaration that the missing person may be presumed to be dead if he or she has been missing for more than seven years and has not been heard from during that period. A court order allows the missing person’s presumed death to be registered and a death certificate issued to the families.
Notes to Editors:
1. On 3 August 2006 the British and Irish Governments announced further steps to recover the remains of the disappeared. The remains of five of the 14 disappeared have been recovered since May 1999.
2. The majority of people who are reported missing each year return home within 72 hours. There are no figures available to indicate how many people go missing each year in Northern Ireland who never return home or otherwise make contact with their families or friends and who may be presumed dead.
3. Under the Births and Deaths Registration (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 a death can generally be registered only if a body is found in Northern Ireland and a cause of death can be established.
4. Under the Presumption of Death (Scotland) Act almost 30 declarations of presumed death have been made since 2000.
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