Hain ‘clarifies’ comments in contempt of court case

Sort of…  After the bluster from various political and media sources over, the “statutorily independent” NI Attorney General, John Larkin’s decision to charge former Secretary of State for Wales, etc, Peter Hain, MP, and his publisher, with contempt of court over remarks in Mr Hain’s autobiography, the BBC has news from the High Court.

Former NI Secretary Peter Hain has written to Attorney General John Larkin clarifying remarks he made about a high court judge in his memoirs.

He said it was never his intention to question Lord Justice Paul Girvan’s motivation in handling a judicial review.

Nor did he question his capabilities as a judge.

In the light of that, Mr Larkin said, a case against Mr Hain did not now need to continue.

In the light of the letter he said he no longer believed there was any risk to public confidence in the administration of justice.

However, the two sides in the case are now arguing over whether or not it should be dismissed or remain on the books.

BBC NI correspondent Gareth Gordon told TalkBack that there was also a letter from Peter Hain’s publisher which includes a commitment to publish the ‘clarifying’ letter in future editions of the book.

For the reasons behind this latest move, Eamonn Mallie’s April conversation with legal-eagle MLAs Alban Maginness and Jim Allister may prove instructive.

Adds  The Guardian report notes the ‘clarifying’ text.

The letter said: “I simply disagreed with, and was exasperated by, the way he dealt with that particular case, coming as it did in the middle of immensely difficult political negotiations to achieve the final democratic peace settlement.

“I have never qualified [Girvan’s] standing and motivation as a judge before that case nor have I done since. My words were never intended to, nor do I believe that they did, in any way undermine the administration of justice in Northern Ireland or the independence of the Northern Ireland judiciary, that very independence and integrity I worked so hard as secretary of state to achieve support for from all sections of the community, including those who had previously denied it.”

And the NI Attorney General’s comment in response

Larkin told the court: “If the matter had been qualified or explained in the way it now has and only now has, these proceedings would not have been taken. In the circumstances I have concluded that as there is no longer any real risk to public confidence in the administration of justice the public interest does not require that this litigation continues to judgment.”

The publishers said a footnote would be inserted in a future edition of the book, containing Hain’s clarification.

The NI Attorney General won the final battle too

[Peter Hain’s] barrister, David Dunlop, initially objected to a request by Larkin that the court issue a no-order ruling, arguing that this allowed the theoretical possibility that the case could be reopened at a later date and instead asked that it be struck out.

Larkin responded: “There is no question of these proceedings being revived. I am happy to indicate that publicly.”

Lord Justice Malachy Higgins, presiding, with Justices John Gillen and Ronald Weatherup, adjourned the case for discussions between the two sides and to allow consultation with clients.

When proceedings reconvened, Dunlop said: “In light of the clarification by the attorney general the respondents do not object to the disposal of this case by way of a no-order.”