UK Politics

Attorney Drops Hain & Biteback Contempt Prosecution

17 May 2012 at 18:47

HAIN AND DALE WELCOMEVICTORY FOR FREE SPEECH AS NORTHERN IRELAND ATTORNEY GENERAL DROPS PROSECUTION FOR ’SCANDALISING’ JUDGE

After the decision today of the Northern Ireland Attorney General to drop his pending prosecution of the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain MP and the Managing Director of Biteback Publishing Iain Dale, they said in a joint statement:

’This is a victory for freedom of speech. In September we will be publishing the paperback edition of Outside In without changing in any way the section that gave offence to some in the Northern Ireland judiciary.

’We were fully prepared to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary and our lawyers were confident of the outcome. But, after the astonishing decision to bring the prosecution, we are delighted that common sense has prevailed and that taxpayers have been saved a great deal of money in legal fees. The Attorney General said in court today that “there is no public interest in pursuing this prosecution”. In our view there never has been and it should never have been brought.

’We have been deeply grateful for cross-party support from nearly 150 MPs and to David Davis MP and David Blunkett MP for leading on this. There is no doubt that the near unanimous condemnation of the planned prosecution demonstrates conclusively how preciously people guard individual liberty

‘We hope that this will mark the end of any ill-judged attempt in future to prosecute for the ancient offence of “scandalising a judge” and ask that the Government and the Supreme Court consider how it can be confined permanently to history.’

UPDATE

Following a report on today’s proceedings in the High Court in Belfast, in Herald.ie, which the following was said…

Mr Larkin said that having received the letter, he no longer believed there was a risk to public confidence in the administration of justice. The Attorney General 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.”

Biteback Publishing Managing Director Iain Dale comments…

“Without wishing to get into a public slanging match with the Attorney General his comments, as reported, are wholly inconsistent with his decision to bring contempt proceedings. Peter Hain and I have repeatedly said at all times that we did not intend to, and do not believe we did, undermine the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. It is only after months of costs and public pressure to back down that the Attorney General has done so. All we have done today is to repeat the assurances that were given to the Attorney General right at the start of this unnecessary case. It is for him to answer for the tens of thousands of pounds he has wasted by bringing this case in the first place. In my opinion his actions have done far more to damage the reputation of the Northern Ireland justice system than anything Peter Hain says in his book OUTSIDE IN”

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