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NORTHERN IRELAND INQUESTS
After a summer recess, the Northern Ireland Coroner’s Inquests into deaths during ‘The Troubles’ are resuming.   These new inquests will address events in 1972.   In supporting the Coroner and any veterans involved, the Army has also created, in Army HQ, the Army Operational Legal Branch (AOLB) as the focus for all legacy issues.   
Within the branch, a number of Veterans Visiting Officers (VVO's), who are Late Entry Officers, have been established. They will provide a direct link to anyone involved in the inquest process and support the veteran and RHQ's. In doing so, it is hoped to demystify the process, show a friendly face with a listening ear and identify what, if any, welfare support is needed.  
This process is outlined below: 
  • When a veteran is approached by the Coroner’s Service Northern Ireland (CSNI) asking the for a statement about an incident during a past tour of NI they will provide details in their initial letter of how to contact the MOD’s Directorate of Judicial Engagement Policy (DJEP) and access legal support.
  • When arranging legal support, the DJEP will ask the veteran if he wishes Army support and if the answer is yes, his details will be passed to AOLB.
  • Once informed of a veterans’s contact details, the AOLB will phone the appropriate RHQ and ask how they would like to proceed.  Ideally, the lead will rest with the VVO who will get in touch, arrange a visit and assess need.   However, if RHQ has a longstanding relationship with the this role may be reversed.
  • Once a visit has taken place, the VVO/RHQ will coordinate any welfare assistance required in consultation to ensure all parties are informed of support provided.
  • The VVO will coordinate any real-life support issues as they arise and accompany the veteran should he be required to make court appearance in person.
  • On completion of a case, the VVO will formally write to the Regiment detailing any assistance provided and any outstanding issues.
  • Of course, a veteran is free at any time to contact RHQ directly (rhqlancswelfare@gmail.com) to discuss or ask for help and advice.
  • Finally, if anyone is contacted by the Coroner’s office, please do not ignore their letter, but engage with the AOLB or RHQ.   Be reassured, the inquests are part of the judicial process and not any form of witch hunt.
The focus throughout is on what is best for the veteran and AOLB will not proceed without consultation 
 
 
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