Hain questions legitimacy of charge
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Wednesday 25 April 2012
A lawyer defending Labour MP Peter Hain against claims that he "scandalised a judge" has challenged whether the offence still exists.
David Dunlop, counsel for the former Northern Ireland Secretary, said the legal action against him had "highly significant" implications for free speech and questioned whether the case had any basis in common law.
The action, taken by the Northern Ireland Attorney General, John Larkin, stems from comments made by Mr Hain in his autobiography, Outside In.
The case has attracted criticism from both sides of the Commons, with more than 120 MPs signing a motion calling for the proceedings to be dropped. David Cameron said exchanges between judges and politicians were part of modern democracy and should be kept "as far as possible out of the courts".
At a preliminary hearing at Belfast High Court yesterday, Mr Larkin said that citizens were entitled to have confidence in the justice system. He declared: "The fair criticism of judges and judicial decisions is not only quite clearly a right, there are also occasions when there may be a duty to do it."
But while not arguing all criticism of judges was contempt of court, he said criticism which undermined public confidence in the administration of justice should not be permitted.
For Mr Hain, Mr Dunlop said he wished to examine whether the "archaic" offence still existed, and questioned whether the action complied with the European Convention on Human Rights. The case will be heard in full on 19 June.
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Businessman charged £75 for three small bottles of water in London hotel
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...
£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...
Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...
£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...