NI Environment Minister’s “retreat from Moscow”

I mentioned that the public inquiry into the John Lewis development at Sprucefield has been delayed due to legal concerns about comments made by the NI Environment Minister, the DUP’s Edwin Poots. 

The BBC reports that Lord Justice Girvan has asked the Attorney General to consider contempt of court proceedings, despite a statement from the Minister being read out in court today.  And, it would appear, not just in regard to the Minister. 

From the BBC report

Lord Justice Girvan said [the Minister’s statement in court today] did not “sit easily” with his comments on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show.

He emphasised how the courts decide applications in accordance with the law and do not set planning policy.

“The minister’s comments should not be made at all while litigation is pending,” he said.

“The minister has failed to recognise what happened should not have happened.”

Lord Justice Girvan set out how the judicial review case had “taken an unusual and so far as I am concerned unprecedented course”.

He said as a consequence of what had happened the public inquiry into the John Lewis planning application had been postponed until the case was resolved.

“The whole situation can only be described as lamentable,” he said.

But he stressed that Mr Poots should neither have been invited onto the programme nor accepted the invitation.

He said: “The role of each of these parties should be considered by the Attorney General.” [added emphasis throughout]

Update  From a 28th October BBC report

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Attorney General’s office confirmed that a decision had been taken “not to make an application under the contempt of court in respect of Mr Poot’s remarks”.