NI Secretary ‘failed to comply with duties’ by not commissioning abortion regime

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis failed to comply with his duties by not expeditiously making abortion widely available to women in the North, a High Court judge has ruled.

However, Mr Justice Colton declined to make any order compelling Mr Lewis to set out a timetable for the provision of the procedure.

He was delivering a ruling after the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission took a judicial review against the Secretary of State, as well as the Northern Ireland Executive and the Department of Health over their failure to commission and fund an extensive abortion regime.

The claims against the Department of Health and Executive were dismissed.

But relating to Mr Lewis, the judge said: “The court declares that between April 2020 and March 2021 the Secretary of State failed to comply with his duties under Section 9 of the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act 2019 in that he failed to ensure expeditiously that the State provide women with access to high-quality abortion and post-abortion care in all public facilities in Northern Ireland.

“The court declines to make any order of mandamus [a judicial writ issued as a command] against the Secretary of State.”