“unsatisfactory….ripe for challenge…borders on the absurd”

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The words of the NI Attorney General, John Larkin, in the legal advice given to the Executive in which he firmly indicates grounds for an appeal regarding the outcome of the case taken by Alan Lennon against the then DRD Minister, Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy.

That the UUP Minister who has succeeded Conor Murphy, Danny Kennedy, has decided to ignore not only the advice given to him by the Attorney General, but also a second legal opinion sought from the Bar Library’s Noelle McGrenera QC and Martin Wolfe, is perhaps natural given his political leanings, but it also clearly implicates him on the very grounds of acting in a sectarian manner that his party- and some others- have sought to charge the former Sinn Fein Minister and MP for Newry and Armagh.

From the BBC report:

It has also emerged that a second legal opinion from the Bar Library’s Noelle McGrenera QC and Martin Wolfe, points to “arguable errors of law”.

This opinion sharply criticised the tribunal’s conclusions about Mr Murphy’s credibility and that it reached an “unsubstantiated view”.

It also found the tribunal’s reasoning “puzzling” and “deeply unconvincing” when it concluded the minister had breached the appointments code.

The opinion continued: “No reasonable tribunal properly directing itself could have reached the conclusions that this tribunal reached.”

Oh the irony…..

 

  • Tomas Gorman

    Oh the irony indeed. How much longer can this continue?

    http://tinyurl.com/7bwnm6p

  • redhugh78

    Even more ironic if it happened to emerge that the same man was turned down for a previous job by none other than Danny Kennedy.Irony indeed.

  • Fergie Pie

    Can’t Sinn Fein fund the appeal instead of using public funds? They are the richest political party in the country.

    If they are so confident Murphy is not a bigot…..

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Murphy gets £22,000 a year according to the Tele “Sinn Fein coffers are partly swelled because its elected representatives’ salaries are paid directly to the party, which then gives them an “industrial wage” of £22,000″.

    Add to that, the shinners have more money than other political parties.

    And if as as been suggested Murphy’s and the shinners sensitivities are so badly offended why don’t they fund a private challenge, after all they are not sort of a Pound or two????

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/sinn-fein-are-wealthiest-party-and-biggest-spenders-16193514.html#ixzz22a4V7ufS

  • andnowwhat

    I’m no fan of the shinners but I never bought the findings for a second.

    What’s Kennedey’s reason for not supporting the appeal?

  • Mister_Joe

    Can Murphy or SF actually appeal? The finding was against Murphy’s former Ministry not against him although harsh words were said about his integrity or lack thereof.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think Mister Joe is right, the appeal has to come from the Minister and unfortunately for SF they chose to vacate that position and so are no longer able to appeal the ruling.

    I think SF would be wiser to take the hit over this matter and drop it. By moaning in public they are merely prolonging negative publicity over a matter they cannot influence. While the opinion of the barristers is something that cannot be ignored I find it hard to believe that nobody advised Murphy that what he was doing could lead to a discrimination hearing; and SF’s initial reaction to this was not that the finding was wrong but that the courts should have no right to intervene in decisions made by a minister, a bizarre reaction from a party which has spearheaded many court challenges against government ministers in the past.

  • Mister_Joe

    I think you’re right about dropping it, Comrade. Apart from anything else, it will probably not harm him electorally, indeed perhaps the opposite.

  • wild turkey

    Mr J

    Unless Murphy was a named respondent, I do not believe in he can initiate an appeal on his own bat.

    on a wider and related, though perhaps, tangential issues?

    “arguable errors of law”. is the opinion of an esteemed member of the bar. but it is just that, an opinion.

    a cynic might say it is lawyerspeak for “write me a blank cheque. and then double due to the complexity of the issues.”

    in a weird way, this case may, repeat may, bear a semblence to the case of Paul Chambers who had his conviction for sending a menacing tweet overturned. overturned after two and half years, losing his job and career

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/03/conversation-twitter-trouble-paul-chambers

    the similarity is this. in those instances where the decision of a lower court or tribunal is overturned on appeal, shouldn’t those who made the initial and flawed decision face some kind of professional and/or financial sanction.

    that is unless of course “the law” is often in practice a game for the cute hoors of the legal professions to clock a wretched excess of overpriced billable time?

  • Fick_Mealty

    All well and good banging drums and blowing trumpets now that the appeal date has passed.

  • Comrade Stalin

    WT,

    I was thinking the same thing when I saw that “errors of law” comment. They are indeed “arguable”, and large sums of money would be charged for the argument with no guarantee at all of the outcome.

  • Michael Shilliday

    We can’t actually make the judgment that Chris appeals for us to do, because Sinn Fein have only leaked the documents, not published them. As a result we can’t take the quotes in context. For example the Larkin opinion doesn’t appear to be an opinion within the standard definition (taken from the partial photograph on the BBC news website). He calls it a “general expression of opinion”, and seems to take his views from the judgement alone, did he have access to the papers?

    In a way it’s a shame that a higher tribunal wont have the opportunity to hear an appeal, but in the absence of that we might as well see the entirety of what we’re talking about, not just bits of it.

  • http://www.ur2die4.com/ amanfromMars

    Comrade,
    I have brought it to Mick’s attention. It is dangerous to Slugger.
    ….. Mister_Joe, 4 August 2012 at 3:19 pm

    What is dangerous to Slugger? That certain members of the Bar are universally perceived as being pompous and arrogant self serving opinionated and ethically amoral bullies? Oh please, there is no new news in that opinion and observation, surely? And times must be lean for them all nowadays, with so few ignorant and easily led thud nuts/virtual mental patients at large in the community, to prosecute and/or defend as the case may be.

    One can surely expect some strange decisions from them to try and generate some crazy income from whoever they can convince that black is white and grey will not matter? Is that not what they all do for a living, or is that only applicable to some or most of them?

    And please note that there are a lot of valid questions there, which are hardly ever answered truthfully?

  • carnmoney.guy

    Smells like a bit of damage limitation, trying to tar Danny Kennedy with the sectarian brush.
    Think Sinn Fein will just drop this after a bit of noise and bluster as Connor Murphy is no longer the leader in waiting once predicted, a Southerns job for the future, Mary Lou ?

  • Mister_Joe

    amanfromMars,

    Making a libellous or potentially libellous statement on a post-moderated blog carries some risks for the proprietor and hence for the blog.

  • Comrade Stalin

    amanfrommars, no, it’s nothing to do with the opinion of bar members or anyone else from the legal profession. A comment was made suggesting, in a around about way, that a specific individual committed fraud.

    carmoney:

    Think Sinn Fein will just drop this after a bit of noise and bluster as Connor Murphy is no longer the leader in waiting once predicted,

    I wonder if Gerry knew this bad news was coming and reshuffled the ministers as a preemptive move, cloaking the whole thing in the (not very convincing) line about double jobbing. It usually seems to take about a year or two between the application to the tribunal being made, and the hearing occurring.

    Agree on the damage limitation point though. They’ll get their dig in at Kennedy and then most likely quietly drop it.

    a Southerns job for the future, Mary Lou ?

    She’s a TD so that’s unlikely.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Here is the original BBC report on the issue.

    “It found evidence by Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy “implausible and lacking credibility”!

    “Deciding Mr Lennon was discriminated against, the tribunal believe Mr Murphy – minister at the time – also broke the code of practice for appointments”.

    “According to the tribunal, Mr Hogan was selected because “he was not from a Protestant background and because he was known to the minister and his (then Sinn Fein) ministerial colleagues”, Michelle Gildernew and Caitriona Ruane, who were consulted about the appointment”.

    “The BBC has seen the 26-page decision issued to those involved”.
    “It concluded: “The tribunal is in considerable doubt as to whether the merit principle was adhered to by the minister and whether Mr Hogan was the best candidate.”

    “It also said Mr Murphy had added new criteria to the selection process “in order to secure Mr Hogan’s appointment”, something it viewed as a breach of the code and procedures for appointments”

    “The tribunal disputed Mr Murphy’s claim he was unaware of the religion of the candidates”.

    .”In the reality of the political and religious environment in Northern Ireland, the tribunal finds the minister’s evidence is implausible and lacks credibility.”

    “The tribunal also said that during Mr Murphy’s time as DRD minister – between 2007-2011, there was “a material bias against the appointment of candidates from a Protestant background”.

    The tribunal did find in Murphy’s favour,
    “The tribunal rejected Mr Lennon’s claim there was also political discrimination, saying there was “a paucity of evidence”.

    I wonder out of all that what points to “arguable errors of law”??? Can we get the information from Larkin via a freedom of information request??

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-18526303

  • Mister_Joe

    Can we get the information from Larkin via a freedom of information request??

    Doubt it very much. Legal privilege presumably applies. But go for it and see.

  • Alias

    As someone claimed that the date for an appeal has already passed, if true, then the leak of the AG’s letter isn’t designed to force the minister’s hand but simply to muddy the waters by creating doubt about the findings of the tribunal in the public’s mind, thereby allowing the Shinners to undermine the tribunal’s findings by referring to the letter whenever the matter is raised. As it stands, and despite differing opinions and the tactical Shinner waffle, the Shinners are the only party with a minister who has been found to have practiced state sectarianism.

  • DC

    Isn’t this the same Attorney General that had to back down or else look ridiculous over his mishandling of the Hain book?

    The Attorney General apparently looking ridiculous is of course a general expression of opinion belonging to myself.

  • http://www.ur2die4.com/ amanfromMars

    Making a libellous or potentially libellous statement on a post-moderated blog carries some risks for the proprietor and hence for the blog. ….. Mister_Joe, 4 August 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks for the info, Mister_Joe.

    That thought is a right dodgy and inequitable state of affairs if the blog proprietor is not responsible for the posting of the comments as the hosting of them in all ignorance of any subliminal third party content is surely no possible crime for which they can be held accountable? Or is it the public wish that it be so?

    Methinks then can we conclude that the lunatics have have left the asylum and would seek to protect their madness in the courts of justice with a criminal unjust law?

    The bigger real crime which is perpetrated is the withholding of key incriminating evidence from investigators and would be prosecutors to try and ensure that natural lawful justice is not done. And some would have you believe that such is what Chilcot is now deliberating on, after the recent shenanigans/pronouncement of Dominic Grieve ….. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2182924/Chilcot-inquiry-Hypocrisy-insidious-culture-secrecy.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

    Quite why the Tories took that course of action would suggest that their leadership is compromised and there are some juicy salacious titbits of personal information about them which is being leveraged nicely to have them keep dirty little secrets, which most of the world have a notion they are privy to anyway and have already surmised/guessed correctly, secret.

    And that must be about the stupidest of stupid moves to have made and be held responsible and accountable for, in this new fabulous fabless age of instant deep packet inspection and forensic semantic analysis of shared information and dodgy intelligence ……. metadatabase

    But hey, as someone [Paul Begala] has earlier said, ….. Politics is show business for ugly people. …. [which is a tad harsh in a few cases surely], and there’s no mention of great working brains in that quotation, nor is it even hinted at.

  • alan56

    AG flexing muscle when he knows nothing will happen. Shows his independence? !

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Chris is this the shinners rope-a-dope strategy???

  • babyface finlayson

    Chris Donnelly
    ” but it also clearly implicates him on the very grounds of acting in a sectarian manner that his party- and some others- have sought to charge the former Sinn Fein Minister and MP for Newry and Armagh.”
    Well it implicates him in acting in a political manner, not necessarily a sectarian manner, unless you assume that all political manoeuvres here are inherently sectarian.

  • RyanAdams

    Of the course the Attorney General was going to defend the government – That’s his job and what he’s paid for. Why wait until the appeal closes to leak this letter – seems just a bit too conveniently engineered. And even if DL is right, It still doesn’t explain the inconvenient fact that is the success rates in any SF held ministry for protestant applicants.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Ryan,

    That doesn’t make sense. He’s going to give the executive his honest opinion. That’s what he’s paid for.

    More Broadly, I’ll say that the learning of the Attorney-general’s opinion is no big deal next to the leaking of the other more important opinion. The AGs opinion was circulated to the executive. Michelle O’Neil had already disclosed that he thought a challenge could be made and as Sinn Fein members were in possession of it, it was always going to be leaked. But it is a general opinion. He was not instructed in the case and was likely basing his opinion simply on the judgment.

    The other opinion would appear be the departments legal advice. The senior counsel is different but the junior counsel is the same as represented the department in the tribunal and both are employment law experts. It’s an in depth opinion on the merits of appealing. In doing so,the opinion would identify arguable points of law that the Court of Appeal could decide upon and give an opinion on the prospects of success. We have little to go on but it appears that some points of law were flagged up as arguable but the prospects of success were assessed to be uncertain. That would be the advice that Kennedy relied on and he did say on the radio that the legal opinion was that an appeal would be uncertain at best. It’s very serious that this was leaked in my opinion. The Department like anyone is entitled to confidential legal advice.

    But anyway what was Kennedy to do. He had an opinion saying success was uncertain. Are you going to spend thousands of pounds for the best case scenario of getting a rehearing resulting in even greater costs. And then Murphy and Hogan would have to give evidence again. The whole sorry episode would drag on as well for atleast another year. Why would you do it? To spare Conor Murphys blushes and how many redundancies would that cost.

  • son of sam

    No doubt there will be the inevitable inquiry within D R D on the .Presumably a limited number of people had sight of counsel’s advice but would anyone put money on unmasking the leaker?Dont hold your breath!

  • son of sam

    “on the leak”

  • wild turkey

    “I was thinking the same thing when I saw that “errors of law” comment. They are indeed “arguable”, and large sums of money would be charged for the argument with no guarantee at all of the outcome.”

    Comrade S

    excuse the 12:30am post, but i kinda got caught up in the olympics and the three golds (yeah, and before someone from the Hatfields or McCoys hits on me for that line, if Estonia, or Nepal or whatever had the same evening, i would have the same joy in witnessing the triumph of some refreshing humanity and humility) now where was i?..

    oh yeah, many moons ago an old high school buddy, now a very serious wall street lawyer, was over here to do some legal business. he was totally pissed off by the needless distinction between barristers and solicitors. he found the pomposity of the barristers especially galling. apparently, he had some allergy issues with out of date horsehair wigs. anyway, his suggested solution?

    1. as soliicitors were juniors in the relationship, he suggested putting them on a boat sailing slowly out of belfast lough.
    2. convene a free catered champagne buffet at the law library.
    3. lock, load and launch cruise missles programmed to seek out the rarified combination of bubbly and horsehair wigs
    4. oh yeah, and then sink the boats in belfast lough

    i pointed out that his suggestions had certain moral, ethical and legal faults. his response?

    “that’s only an opinion. i deal with the obvious evidence”

  • RyanAdams

    “Are you going to spend thousands of pounds for the best case scenario of getting a rehearing resulting in even greater costs. And then Murphy and Hogan would have to give evidence again.”

    Preferably not considering both sides would be funded by the public – and most of it would be legal costs. A bit like two farmers arguing over a cow, one pulling the head, one pulling the arse of it with all while the solicitors are sitting milking the bloody thing :) .

    Murphy re-engineered criteria after short listing took place – There is zero come back for any private sector firm which does this; Public bodies shouldn’t be treated any differently; in fact they should be setting the right kind of examples when it comes to employment law.

  • Comrade Stalin

    WT,

    Well my comment on that would be to say that it’s important that if people are going to argue to change the system they should give good reasons that address the reasons for the status quo, rather than simply advocating the system that they are most familiar with.

    In this context, the split legal system is nothing to do with the issue of legal professionals seeking out opportunities to rack up billable hours, which I’m quite sure happens in the US just as it does here.

  • Lionel Hutz

    oh yeah, many moons ago an old high school buddy, now a very serious wall street lawyer, was over here to do some legal business. he was totally pissed off by the needless distinction between barristers and solicitors. he found the pomposity of the barristers especially galling. apparently, he had some allergy issues with out of date horsehair wigs. anyway, his suggested solution?

    ————–

    You know, I always think it’s a little bit amusing but also frustrating when you read nonsense like that. It’s kind of like saying that there’s no need for a distinction between GPs and hospital doctors. But ill just give you a small illustration though it is way off topic here. Take criminal law. There’s an principle that lawyers work on a “cab rank rule” – first come first serve. For every time someone is arrested, I don’t know the exact statistics but be generous and say 2/3 are charged and brought to court. Of those two thirds, about 4-5% go to the crown court. So the one fused lawyer would have a crown court case for about 2-3 of every 100 clients they meet in the police station. With all the time spent in the police station, and then in the magistrates court, how much time can this lawyer spend in the crown court, understanding the intricacies of it and basically practicing that level of advocacy before jury, how can you get really good at it. How much time can you actually spend. The distinction is actually neat in my view. The barristers can be contacted by any solicitor in NI and they will work for them. They get to concentrate on the small number of cases that involve serious and complex dispute and get better at it.

    You could do without it but if you did firms would basically have an in house lawyer who behaves like a Barrister. Which is fine for the big city firms but most firms can’t have that. That’s why the US is shit and with so much inequity.

  • Mister_Joe

    Lionel,

    What is your opinion of the contingency system in the US (I’m assuming it hasn’t been introduced in the UK). I can never quite make up my mind. It does allow the poor a measure of access to the Civil Courts but also results in much frivilous litigation by underemployed lawyers who hope it can make them instantly rich if they happen upon a “jackpot”.

  • son of sam

    Lionel
    “The barristers can be contacted by any solicitor in N I and they will work for them” Am I correct in saying that there are a number of counsel who will not take any prosecution briefs?There may have been cultural historical reasons for this in the past but is this still the position?

  • DC

    Re the legal profession, I think David Ford should still plan ahead with a statutory Public Defender office, plans should be put in place should these lawyers and all else get uppity over pay; when that happens just simply ignore them and role out a Public Defenders Office.

    Must write to DoJ and ask if any forward planning like this has been done.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Am I correct in saying that there are a number of counsel who will not take any prosecution briefs?

    Hard to imagine Madden & Finucane or Kevin Winters taking instructions from the PPS.

  • son of sam

    Comrade Stalin
    In my post I specified counsel/barristers.Both the names you cite are firms of solicitors.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Oops, I stand corrected. I should have known that.