The 2014-2016 Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, often referred to as the HIA Inquiry, is the largest inquiry into historical institutional sexual and physical abuse of children in UK legal history. Its remit covers institutions in Northern Ireland that provided residential care for children from 1922 to 1995, but excludes most church-run schools. The Inquiry was set up in response to the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse Act (Northern Ireland) 2013. Following a request to extend its timescale, the report that the Inquiry is required to publish must be delivered to the First Minister and deputy First Minister (who will have no powers to change it) by 18 January 2017. Preliminary estimate of the cost was about £15m, with 37 people working on the enquiry according to its Frequently Asked Questions in July 2016. There are provisions for witness support. The Inquiry has statutory powers to compel witnesses living in Northern Ireland to appear before it and evidence held in Northern Ireland to be given to it; to take evidence under oath; and to be held in public except where necessary to protect individuals‘ privacy. Inquiry Rule 14(3) does not allow any explicit or significant criticism of a person unless the chairperson has sent them a warning letter, with a reasonable opportunity to respond.
Victims and survivors are represented by the Inquiry’s legal team at hearings; other witness may have their own legal representatives. Only the Inquiry legal team questions witnesses, and victims and survivors will not normally be cross examined by anyone else except in extremely unusual cases.
The Inquiry concluded its hearings on 8 July 2016, and continued to draft its report.
The Inquiry said that it would investigate the following Institutions, but that it might later decide to investigate others:
The inquiry covers residential care, but specifically does not cover other cases of clerical abuse, or most church-run schools
The Inquiry’s hearings are held in the former Banbridge courthouse; the opening hearing was held on 13 January 2014, with open oral testimony to finish in June 2015[needs update], and with the inquiry team reporting to the Executive by the start of 2016[needs update]. Hearings are divided into modules:
Evidence called and transcripts are available on the HIA Web site.
The Inquiry examined allegations relating to the former Kincora Boys‘ Home from 31 May to 9 July 2016, including claims that there was a paedophile ring at the home with links to the intelligence services; Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said that all state agencies would co-operate with the inquiry.