While we await the findings of the inquiry into the actions of the Secretary of State for Wales, etc during one judicial review, today in Belfast High Court Mr Justice Deeny has ruled that Peter Hain had acted unlawfully in changing the terms of reference for the inquiry into the murder of Billy Wright, previously mentioned here. According to the UTV report, Mr Justice Deeny said that Peter Hain, perhaps, had been wrongly advised – ruling not yet online [Another success to add to that list - Ed]From the UTV report
The judge held that Mr Hain failed to take into account the important and relevant consideration that the independence of such an inquiry was compromised by Section 14 of the 2005 Act giving a Minister power to terminate the inquiry at any time.
He said Mr Hain was wrongly advised that an equivalent power existed under the Prisons Act.
Mr Justice Deeny said that as the decision-maker, Mr Hain did not direct himself nor did he have called to his attention, the “novel and unrestricted power given to him and his successors as Ministers in a Northern Ireland administration.
“In saying that I make it clear that my criticism of the decision does not involve a personal criticism of the decision-maker,” he said.
“There was no question of bad faith here. He ought to have been advised, at the least, that there was a seriously contentious issue relating to the powers under Section 14.”
The BBC report has a response from the NIO
A spokesman for the NIO said the secretary of state was disappointed by the judgement and would study it carefully.
He said the the decision to convert the inquiry to the Inquiries Act was taken at the request of the independent tribunal chairman, Lord McLean.