Sealing the past: McQuillan and the future of legacy litigation

Anurag Deb, Colin Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cases which address the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict all too often tend to be cordoned off from general discourse about human rights jurisprudence in the UK. Indeed, it can be reassuring for accounts of the UK’s contemporary constitutional order focused on Whitehall and Westminster to file such legacy litigation under the heading of "dark days, long ago, over the water". This article explores the shortcomings with this approach through the lens of the UK Supreme Court’s decision in McQuillan . It highlights not only the Court’s discomfort with dealing with such cases, and efforts to constrain such litigation,
but also identifies a sea change in the Justices’ approaches to the limits of the Human Rights Act , and informs understandings of the operation of the rule against bias and the doctrine of legitimate expectations. It is thus a decision which both reshapes the Northern Ireland conflict’s legacy litigation and which provides a significant window into shifting attitudes to human rights
claims in the UK Supreme Court.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-411
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Human Rights Law Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2022


  • Duty to undertake effective investigation
  • Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Interrogation
  • Legitimate expectation
  • Northern Ireland
  • Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • Review grounds
  • Torture


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