Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) is to seek a meeting with the Justice Minister to ask if it would be possible to make interim payments to innocent victims of terrorism before Christmas.

The Minister, in a BBC radio interview, said it could take up to eighteen months before payments are made and that the cost of the scheme could increase to £800 million.

The Executive Office designated the Department of Justice to administer the scheme following the critical High Court Judgement last week.

UHRW Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “This designation was welcome. It swept aside one of the major obstacles to the full operation of the scheme which was meant to have commended on the 29th May.

“What is not such welcome news is that it could be another year and a half before payments are made. A delay of this magnitude is hard to fathom and many innocent victims will be further disappointed and incensed.

“Why will it take so long? Surely the Minister and her senior civil servants have put all the necessary building blocks in place so that further unnecessary and bureaucratic delays can be avoided?

“Ulster Human Rights Watch would like to think the Justice Department could open a dedicated section within the Department to fast-track applications, assess claimants suffering from psychological conditions such as PTSD, and get payments made a lot sooner than eighteen months.

“We also wish to understand the funding stream – where the money’s coming from – and how the Department will actually go about operating the scheme. In addition, we have questions around the Victims’ Payment Board and the guidance that was issued by the Government.

“We know the Minister is sympathetic to the plight of innocent victims. Surely, it is possible for the Department to set up an Interim Payment process where victims could be awarded a one-off sum of £2,000 which could be paid before Christmas. Such a gesture would be well received and be a tangible demonstration of goodwill and understanding towards victims.”