20/11/2006

Judge calls for inquiry into McDougall appointment

A High Court Judge has today asked for the government's appointment of interim Victims' Commissioner Bertha McDougall, 59, to be investigated by the attorney general.

Lord Goldsmith is now to examine whether the court was deliberately misled by the Northern Ireland Office during the judicial review of her appointment.

It is understood that the judge, Mr Justice Girvan, believes that there were possible attempts to pervert the course of justice and has said that Mrs McDougall's appointment had been motivated by an "improper political purpose" and recommended that there be an inquiry.

Lord Justice Girvan has supplied the Attorney General with 67 questions he wants answered about potential cover up in the appointment.

In relation to the case, Northern Ireland Civil Service Nigel Hamilton presented evidence in the form of a letter agreed by the Secretary of State, which has led to Mr Hain being accused of failing to take into account that Mrs McDougall, the widow of a police reservist murdered by the INLA, and co-founder of the victims' group, Forgotten Families, would be able to gain support from all sides of the community.

The High Court Judge said: "The letter and the evidence provided by Mr Hamilton as approved by the Secretary of State had the tendence to mislead."

Commenting on the accusation, Mr Hain said: “I absolutely reject any suggestion that there was a deliberate attempt to mislead the court in relation to the appointment of Bertha McDougall as the Interim Victims Commissioner.

“I would welcome any decision by the Attorney General to hold an inquiry.

“It will receive our full co-operation.

“On the wider issue of the judicial review judgement on public appointments, which have implications beyond this specific case, an appeal is still under consideration.

“The one group of people who must not be forgotten are the victims.

“I make no apology for preparing the ground for a permanent champion for victims who will, for the first time in Northern Ireland’s history, have a voice at the highest level.

“I want to re-iterate that Bertha McDougall has done an excellent job on behalf of victims.”

(EF/KMcA)


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