Unanswered questions bring QC to Belfast

A few points worth noting from the Belfast Telegraph’s Chris Thornton’s timely update on the “rigorous and searching investigation” into “the way in which the Government carried out their obligation of candour in the judicial review proceedings relating to the appointment of an interim Commissioner for Victims and Survivors”. Firstly “the review is still waiting for three potential witnesses to answer detailed questionnaires about the case” [which three? – Ed]. As noted on January 26th, those witnesses had been given 4 weeks to provide replies and those replies had been expected in early February. Which may help explain why, as Chris Thornton reports

Peter Scott QC is due to visit Belfast to conduct interviews about the handling of the Victims Commissioner’s case, which touches on the conduct of Secretary of State Peter Hain and his two most senior civil servants.

Updated belowWhilst it would explain the visit, it doesn’t explain why the questionnaires were not answered. Perhaps Mr Hain had other things on his mind..

It’s also worth noting that the inquiry will not be affected by Mr Hain’s appeal against the original ruling, dealing as it does with a “possible attempted interference with or obstruction of the course of justice” during the course of that original review.

A cynic sceptic might think there was a pattern emerging..

Update From an answer to a written question from Conservative NI spokesman, David Lidington MP

Mike O’Brien (Solicitor General, Law Officers’ Department)

Since I last updated the House, Mr. Scott has received a further 28 lever-arch files of documentation, bringing the total to 41 files. Most of the documents comprise the files maintained contemporaneously by the two departments concerned, and require careful scrutiny to identify those which are central to the matters which Mr. Scott is investigating.

Mr. Scott has sent questionnaires to 17 potential witnesses and received responses from 14 of them to date. He expects to receive the outstanding responses by the middle of this month. There may be one or two other witnesses whom he will also want to question in due course.

When he has completed his scrutiny of the documentation, Mr. Scott will interview any witness of whom he requires further information or clarification of their statement. Some of those interviews will take place in Belfast later this month and the remainder in London, probably in April and May. He will submit his report to the Attorney-General as soon as possible after completing those interviews and taking any steps which may emerge from them and are necessary to complete his report.

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