An appeal by the former Secretary of State Peter Hain MP to overturn a High Court ruling that the appointment of Bertha McDougall as an ‘Interim’ Victims Commissioner, that he made during his time as Secretary of State, was unlawful failed in Belfast’s Court of Appeal this morning.
In a ruling delivered by the Court of Appeal the unlawful finding of the initial High Court hearing by Justice Girvan was upheld by the Lord Chief Justice Kerr, Justice Higgins and Justice Morgan.
Concluding this mornings findings Lord Chief Justice Kerr said that ‘…the appointment of Mrs. McDougall was not lawfully made and we will make a declaration to that effect.’
Attending this morning’s hearing was Mrs. Brenda Downes who initially took a judicial review of the appointment which led to the landmark judgement. Afterwards Mrs. Downes in a statement issued through Relatives for Justice said that; ‘She was satisfied that the court had upheld the original ruling that the appointment was unlawful and that her motivation in initially challenging the appointment was about ensuring equality, rights and fair play for all victims and survivors of the conflict and ending decades of the practice of exclusion and discrimination at the highest levels for political motives.’
Mrs. Downes also added that; ‘ The case had also set legal precedents regarding discovery and disclosure of information concerning judicial review. Consequently the process overall that I initiated has had a direct, positive and beneficial knock-on effect in terms of ordinary citizens ensuring that a rights based culture is brought about and achieved.
Mrs. Downes concluded by saying that ‘ I want to thank the legal team and Relatives for Justice that worked with and supported me throughout this past few years in which I have been involved in this case.’ ENDS
The Initial ruling by Justice Girvan, including statements by Mrs. Downes at the time, can be located at www.relativesforjustice.com
In a separate hearing after the initial ruling on Nov 9th 2006 Justice Girvan tabled 76 questions concerning the conduct of senior civil servants and political advisors and requested that the Attorney General conduct an investigation ‘at the highest level’ into a number of aspects arising from his examination of the case and his findings. The Attorney General subsequently appointed Peter Scott QC who conducted a report into the appointment. Albeit that the Scott report may have provided a softer landing for all involved it was unable to exonerate those involved of any wrongdoing. A view implicit in this mornings upholding of the original unlawful verdict.