.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dissing the judiciary

Much of the media has picked up on this press release issued by Biteback Publishing and Peter Hain MP, which reveals that Lord Justice Higgins has granted leave to the Attorney General of Northern Ireland to bring proceedings for contempt of court against them.

They say that the proceedings relate to a passage in Peter Hain’s memoir, OUTSIDE IN, in which Peter Hain makes critical remarks about the Northern Irish judge, Judge Girvan (now Lord Justice Girvan), relating in particular to a 2006 Judicial Review case heard by Judge Girvan regarding the appointment of Bertha MacDougall as Interim Victims Commissioner.

According to the Statement filed by the Attorney General in the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, the passages in the book "constitute unwarranted abuse of a judge in his judicial capacity that undermines the administration of justice in this jurisdiction, and consequently constitute a contempt of court" and publication of the passages "create without justification a real risk that public confidence in the judicial system will be undermined". According to the Attorney General, the contempt of court has been aggravated by public comments made by Mr Hain since the book was published. The Attorney General of Northern Ireland "accordingly considers it appropriate that the author and publisher of 'Outside In' should be punished for contempt of court".

As I understand it the law under which this action is being taken dates back to the nineteenth century and clearly belongs to another age. Judges should not be above criticism and more than any other public figure. Peter Hain is right to defend this action as an atack on freedom of speech.
You have a point, Peter, however, in a country where a large section of the community has been at war with the state for an extended period of time and the judiciary has been instrumental in implementing peace accord between combatants and victims, as well as trying to establish legitimacy in both communities, any reasonable man would know that criticism of the judge in appointment of a victims commissioner risks jeopardising this confidence in the process. The comments by Peter Hain is a best a plug to beef up a tawdry book, and at worst and attempt to elevate his flagging political career. All the peoples of Northern Ireland deserve better, and ex-viceroys should not throw stones into a sensitive process he does not own, is not elected to take part in, and does not understand. Freedom of speech is does say that you cannot shout "fire" in a crowded theatre. In Northern Ireland it means you cannot shout 'murderer' in a crowded parliament, or question the legitimacy of those of the judiciary who's actions are driven by moving from civil war into a political process. If anyone has a mandate to question the decisions of the judiciary it would be the current elected politicians of the communities involved, not some over inflated foreign politician, who was never elected by any part of those communities.
You don't need a "mandate" for free speech.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?