Soft landing after all for Peter Hain

Despite the initial ruling of Mr Justice Girvan, and the Attorney-General’s ongoing inquiry, it’s being reported that today Mr Justice Girvan has decided not to quash the appointment of Interim Victims Commissioner Bertha McDougall and he stated that “As a matter of common sense and practicality it would be desirable for Mrs McDougall to be able to complete work on her report.” – that looks like the compromise which was rejected before Christmas. [so much for futuring – Ed] I’ll add the ruling when it’s online. Adds If we can take the statement by Peter Hain at face value, he’s finally decided to appeal against the initial ruling More Belfast Telegraph reports a wrinkle in the ruling – see belowFrom the Secretary of State’s statement

“Whilst I welcome the Court’s refusal to quash Mrs McDougall’s appointment, I am disappointed by the finding that the appointment was unlawful and I will be appealing that in the strongest possible terms.”

And that initial ruling again

[59] The appointment of Mrs McDougall

(a) breached section 76 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998;

(b) being in breach of the accepted merit norms applicable to public appointments and in breach of the Ministerial Code of Practice in the circumstances the appointment, was in breach of the power of appointment under the Royal Prerogative;

(c) was motivated by an improper purpose, being motivated by a political purpose ( so called confidence building) which could not be legitimately pursued at the expense of complying with the proper norms of public appointments where merit is the overriding consideration; and

(d) failed to take account of the fact that there was no evidential basis for concluding that the appointee would command cross-community support.

More As the Belfast Telegraph report notes

But the judge indicated that Mrs McDougall should release the report under her own name, rather than as the Interim Victims Commissioner, as a way of ” distancing herself from the illegality of the appointments process”.

Mr Hain’s appeal should allow the Government to bypass that ruling and publish Mrs McDougall’s report as the official work of the Victims Commissioner.

Not that that would be intentionally ignoring the High Court ruling at all..

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