A Belfast High Court judge has adjourned the application for a judicial review of the controversial new law criminalising the paying for sex following a last minute intervention by the Northern Ireland Attorney General on behalf of the Office of the NI First and Deputy First Ministers (OFMDFM).
Interestingly, as the BBC report notes
A barrister representing the [NI Department of Justice] confirmed it was not opposing Ms Lee’s application for a judicial review of the new law, on the basis that an arguable case had been established.
The BBC report has what information is available
The judge adjourned the case until next month, but requested full reasons for the intervention, which was made on the eve of the hearing.
“I accept that this application made on behalf of the attorney general, who is acting for the first minister and deputy first minister, has not been accompanied with any clear or cogent explanation as to the course of events,” he said. [added emphasis throughout]
Ms Lee’s judicial review challenge is directed at the Department of Justice (DOJ), led by Justice Minister David Ford, who also opposed the criminalisation of those who pay for prostitution.
A barrister representing the DOJ confirmed it was not opposing Ms Lee’s application for a judicial review of the new law, on the basis that an arguable case had been established.
However, Ms Lee’s legal team criticised the attempt by another Stormont department to become involved in the case.
“My client is deeply concerned at the proposed, grossly late intervention on the part of the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister,” her lawyer told the court.
“We say it’s highly improper and unorthodox, effectively OFMDFM are seeking to resist the grant of leave against the Department of Justice.”
The court heard the OFMDFM challenge raised a potential devolution issue and the judge allowed the department an opportunity to explain the late move.
[Isn’t the Attorney General the chief legal adviser to the entire NI Executive? – Ed] You might very well think that… [So isn’t he intervening against his own advice? – Ed] That’s above my pay-grade…
Adds from Ciaran Moynagh on Twitter
— Ciaran Moynagh ⚖ (@CiaranMoy) February 19, 2016