Appeal of judicial review of “smoke filled rooms” appointments rejected

A BBC report notes that the Belfast Court of Appeal has rejected a challenge to an earlier judicial review of OFMDFM’s appointment of four Victims Commissioners. According to the report

But on Tuesday, the court ruled there was no evidence that the ministers involved were motivated by improper political considerations. Nor that they acted on the grounds of political opinion or religious belief.

That absence of evidence would be because then-First Minister, Ian Paisley Snr, and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were not subpoenaed about their un-documented and witness-free meetings, in office, about the eventual appointments. But it doesn’t mean there’s evidence of absence. Well, it is “a fragile flower which requires careful tending…”To repeat myself,

If Peter Hain’s improper political motivation had been equally exempted from scrutiny would his Interim appointment have been ruled unlawful?

And as Mark Devenport said at the time

In short, this judgment looks to have cut the legs off any future attempt to judicially review the OFMDFM and to provide a “carte blanche” for meetings without officials and note takers present.

But never fear, if you disagree in the future with an OFMDFM decision, you don’t need to turn to the courts, because our ministers, as Mr Justice Gillen notes “are accountable to the Assembly where they are likely to be questioned and scrutinised”. And we all know just how effective the Assembly has been at carrying out that job in the past.

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  • Maeglin


    You need to check the factual basis for your post since it is wildly inaccurate. The Judicial Review was given leave. The Judicial Review happened and was dismissed. This was then appealed to the Court of Appeal and heard fully. This was then dismissed in a judgement given this morning. ALL ALLEGATIONS WERE REFUSED AND REJECTED BY THE COURT AFTER HEARING THE CASE TWICE!

  • Pete Baker

    Point taken on the judicial review. I’ve amended the text accordingly.

    But I don’t accept the “wildly inaccurate” charge.

    As I’ve pointed out the absence of evidence does not equate to an evidence of absence.

    And since OFMDFM made sure there was no evidence…

  • Maeglin

    The “wildly inaccurate” was based on the allegation of no srutiny because leave was refused. Any case going through a judicial review and then appeal would have had a very high degree of judicial scrutiny. In addition to this, it should be pointed out that Hain was not called to give evidence in his review (as such a thing as called witnesses would be very unusual in judicial review cases). Something tells me he wouldn’t be big into notetaking either!!

  • joeCanuck

    Strange wording: “Nor that they acted on the grounds of political opinion”.
    It was a political decision, of course; aren’t all decisions made by politicians in the course of their business by their very nature political? Furthermore, aren’t they elected to do do?
    It might not be unfair to describe the complaint as frivolous or mischievous.

  • granni trixie

    This case brings to mind, “the law is an ass”.

    Whatever the courts decisions,in a commonsense way it seems to me wrong that interference by two key ministers resulted in 4 (sectarian) jobs, a waste of public money as well as unfair.

    I presume that the original intention was to recruit one person with the skill to deal fairly with all comers. I presume that everyone who applied had prepared a case to show that they could do just that.

    If the advert had indicated that responsibility was to be shared by 4 people I presume that some people who did not apply would have. (heard Alan McBride on radio make just that point).

    This case makes a joke of fair employement legislation and morality.

  • alan56

    And then there were 3. Crazy decisions and the public will be disillusioned with the whole edifice if there is not more transparency and less spin from our political masters. This all just leaves a bad taste. We had to have 4 commissioners but now 3 will do!

  • joeCanuck

    the public will be disillusioned with the whole edifice

    Alan, Surely you meant “..even more disillusioned…”

  • Kevsterino

    Yeah, Joe, I was struck by the assertion that no evidence was found that politicians acted out of political opinion.

    No irony there, eh?

  • slappymcgroundout

    Do some not know what separation of powers means? And this statement is simply stunning:

    “Nor that they acted on the grounds of political opinion or religious belief.”

    How could it not be (legislative) politics? And we don’t go anywhere near religious belief (or not). And back to my original point, why is a judge even asking these questions in the first instance?

    Now from the one linked piece:

    “The court heard Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness declined to answer questions in the judicial review proceedings and successfully resisted attempts to have them give evidence. Mr Macdonald said he recognised their right to rely on every legal defence open to them to prevent disclosure of this material. “But the fact that they have done so in order to shield themselves from any scrutiny is a matter which, in our submission, can be relied upon by the court,” he argued.”

    Declined and resisted as would have any legislative representative in any functioning govt understanding the notion of separation of powers.

    Next up:

    “Why were four people appointed, when every one of them would have been capable of doing the job single-handedly?”

    Well, Naomi, as Bloo informed Slugger:

    “9.I think a commission rather than a single commissioner is the best way to proceed. An individual can be more easily accused of bias than a collective can. This is a good idea.”

    Indeed. And, Naomi, you might just as well have asked, why does the Court of Appeal have more than one member when one can do the job?

  • granni trixie


    What you say is quite damning so who is Bloo and can you clarify who Naomi is and what the context was?

  • slappymcgroundout

    Granni trixie:

    Naomi is Naomi Long. The quote I related is from the linked piece above, the in red, “four Victims Commissioners”. Bloo otherwise was or is a member here, i.e., the “9” in the quote indicates the comment post number. Don’t otherwise know Bloo’s real identity (nor do I care)(I’m playing the ball in using Bloo’s remarks and not the human, ie., it’s the idea and not the human who is important as we recognize the logical fallacy in the argument from authority).

    Lastly, I think that the court otherwise very nearly understands the matter of separation of powers, so the court’s remarks re no politics and no religion is mere dicta, included to console or pacify some (though some here aren’t so consoled or pacified). So you might say that I’m not so much “damning” the court but some others instead.

    By the way, to add to Bloo, it isn’t simply the “bias”, since 4 instead of 1 also protects against mere error (4 are less likely to make the same mistake, to take just one instance of the protection against mere error that comes with 4 over 1)(one of the reasons why there is more than one justice on your court of appeal).

  • Pigeon Toes

    “(4 are less likely to make the same mistake, to take just one instance of the protection against mere error that comes with 4 over 1”

    There are 108 MLA’s…

  • Pigeon Toes
  • Pigeon Toes

    Sorry posted on wrong thread. Duh