Sir Anthony Hart, the retired judge who chaired the biggest child abuse inquiry ever held in the UK, has died. He died, aged 73, in London on Tuesday after suffering a severe heart attack. The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) was set up in May 2012 to investigate allegations of abuse in 22 institutions between 1922 to 1995. Survivors Together, a group representing victims of historical abuse, said it was “thankful and grateful” for his support. “It was Sir Anthony who believed in victims and it was Sir Anthony who delivered the truth when others failed. We offer our sincere condolences to his family circle at this sad time,” a statement said.
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Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said Sir Anthony was “one of the most respected, distinguished and admired judges of our times”. “His years of hard work and dedication to the courts, justice and the most vulnerable people in society will leave a huge void,” he said.
The Church of Ireland Diocese of Down and Dromore paid tribute to “Tony” on its website.
In a statement, it asked for prayers for his widow, Mary, and his family. The statement described the retired judge as “a strong but gentle Christian believer and a regular worshipper in St Mark’s, Dundela”.
Bishop of Down and Dromore, Rt Revd Harold Miller said: “It was a pleasure and privilege to know Tony. He served the Lord, the church and the community with faithfulness and integrity, with humility and firmness. “He will be greatly missed.” Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said: “The light he shone on what took place is something we owe him a great deal of gratitude for.” Prior to chairing the inquiry, Sir Anthony served as a High Court judge following a number of years as a barrister. At the conclusion of the inquiry, he recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors. He said a tax-free lump sum payment should be made to all survivors, including in homes and institutions that were not covered by the inquiry. The payments will range from £7,500 to £100,000. But the compensation scheme has not yet been implemented in the absence of a devolved administration at Stormont. Sir Anthony also recommended that a commissioner for survivors of institutional abuse be appointed.
Last week, Brendan McAllister was appointed as that commissioner. He said his priority was seeing legislation passed at Westminster to help victims and survivors. Sir Anthony was called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1969 and to the Bar of England and Wales in 1975. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1983 and a County Court judge in 1985. He was Recorder of London derry from 1985-90, and of Belfast from 1997-2005, and was the first person to be appointed as Presiding Judge of the County Courts in Northern Ireland in 2002. In January 2005 he was promoted to be a High Court judge, and until his retirement in January 2012 he was responsible to the Lord Chief Justice for the pre-trial case management of all the crown court trials conducted by High Court judges.