Northern Ireland

HIA announces closing date for private submissions to forum

Sir Anthony Hart
Image caption Sir Anthony Hart said victims could feel satisfied their experiences were being listened to

The inquiry examining abuse claims in NI's children's homes and juvenile justice institutions has announced a closing date of 30 April for anyone wanting to speak in private to the inquiry.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) was set up to investigate allegations dating from 1922 to 1995.

It is investigating claims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as childhood neglect.

It began hearing evidence in January.

The closing date of 30 April at 17:00 BST for anyone wishing to speak to the forum was announced by the inquiry's chairman, Sir Anthony Hart, at Banbridge Courthouse on Thursday.

In announcing the closing date, the Sir Anthony said: "It is necessary to bring the acknowledgment forum application process to a close to facilitate the forum informing the work of the statutory inquiry.

"The 30th April 2014 has been chosen as the latest possible date that will allow the forum to see everyone who wishes to speak to it, and at the same time allow it enough time to prepare its report," he said.

Applications to participate in the inquiry's public hearings closed on 29 November 2013.

By that date, 434 individuals had applied to speak to the statutory inquiry and/or the forum.

However, since that date, it has still been possible for individuals to apply to speak to the forum, and 56 further applications have been received to date.

So far, the acknowledgement forum has interviewed 308 individuals.

The forum sits on a regular basis in Belfast and in Derry/Londonderry, and elsewhere as necessary.

Each applicant normally speaks to two panel members.

The meeting provides applicants with the time to talk of their experiences while in residential childcare. They are supported in doing so in a sympathetic way.

The public hearings stage of the inquiry is being held in Banbridge, County Down, and is expected to last for 18 months.

During that time, it is due to hear evidence from more than 300 witnesses, including former residents who claim they were abused as children, the people who ran the institutions, health and social care officials and government representatives.

The inquiry's remit is limited to children's residential institutions in Northern Ireland.

So far, it is examining claims against 13 children's homes and borstals.

Applications can be requested from the inquiry helpline 0800 068 4935 or downloaded from the inquiry's website website.

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