Peter Hain Denies Judge Criticism Was 'Intended To Undermine'

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Controversial comments in Labour MP Peter Hain's autobiography were never intended to undermine the administration of justice in Northern Ireland, the High Court in Belfast heard.

The former Northern Ireland secretary is the subject of a contempt of court case taken by the Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin over criticisms of a judge contained in the memoirs.

Larkin read letters from Hain and his publisher clarifying his remarks and promising this would be included in a future edition of the book.

Hain's letter said: "My words were never intended to, not 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."

Hain faced a charge of "scandalising a judge", but lawyers for the Labour politician and his publishers Biteback had questioned at an earlier hearing whether the offence still existed in law.

The views written by the Neath MP related to Lord Justice Paul Girvan's handling of a judicial review of Hain's decision to appoint police widow Bertha McDougall as an interim victims commissioner for Northern Ireland when Mr Hain was Secretary of State for the region.

Today however, lawyer for Mr Hain David Dunlop objected to a request by Mr Larkin that the court issue a no-order ruling.

The barrister argued 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."
The panel of three judges adjourned the case until later today to allow the two sides to discuss the matter.