Appointment of Victims Commissioner

09th November 2006

Appointment of Victims Commissioner “Unlawful and Discriminate”

Speaking today following the judgment by Mr Justice Girvan on the challenge by Mrs Brenda Downes to the appointment of Mrs Bertha McDougall to the post of Victims Commissioner Mrs Brenda Downes said:

“Justice has prevailed. The appointment was a clear violation of Section 76. This is a landmark judgment, which vindicates undertaking this case in the interests of everybody’s right to equality, openness, transparency and accountability – especially for all the forgotten victims who have been excluded. This signals that Government cannot act arbitrarily.

“Given the judge’s call for an “immediate searching inquiry at a high level” into how this appointment was made I would call on the Secretary of State to immediately outline how he proposes to take forward the judge’s recommendation.

Mark Thompson, Director of Relatives for Justice said:

“This judgement is for all victims. It is not a reflection on Mrs McDougall per se it is about a government which ignores its obligations and does not serve the interests of victims well. Peter Hain exploited and played politics with the victims issue for political gain. This has been exposed today.

“Further, given that the judgement today has highlighted the lack of candour, and the improper motive of senior civil servants Nigel Hamilton and Jonathon Phillips, we would call for their suspension pending the outcome of an immediate inquiry as recommended by Justice Girvan.”


The judgement by Mr Justice Girvan in Para 28 says “the instructions given to counsel (by the Secretary of State and his senior civil servants) were obviously misleading”.

In the conclusions of the judgement Para 59 Justice Girvan stated that the appointment of Mrs Bertha McDougall

  • Breached Section 76 of the NI Act 1998
  • Was a breach of the power of appointment under Royal Prerogative
  • Was motivated by improper purpose, being motivated by political purpose, which could not legitimately be pursued at the expense of complying with proper norms of public appointments.
  • Failed to take account of the fact that there was no evidential basis for concluding that the appointee would command cross-community support.