01/07/2009

No Jail For Paisley Jnr Over Contempt

A high profile Stormont Assembly member was fined £5,000 yesterday for refusing to reveal the name of a confidential source.

However, while MLA Ian Paisley Jnr will have to find a considerably higher sum - taking into account costs - he won't be going to prison.

Yesterday, he said that he was taking "time to consider whether he would pay the fine at all" as he had previously indicated that we would be prepared to go to jail over the issue.

However, a judge said on Wednesday that rather than jail him for three-months if the fine is not paid, he would issue a warrant which could see goods or assets seized.

The 'younger' DUP politician had his elder statesman father at his side as he gave his reaction to the ruling outside court yesterday.

He indicated that he might be forced to follow his dad's example by ending up with a prison sentence over his beliefs.

Decades ago, the veteran politician spent time in Crumlin Road Prison in defiance of the legal system.

Paisley Snr was jailed for organising an illegal counter-demonstration against a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march in Armagh.
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Yesterday's case against Ian Paisley Jnr saw him facing contempt charges after defying a court order compelling him to disclose the identity of the informant to a public inquiry into the murder of LVF leader Billy Wright inside the Maze Prison in 1997.

Denied the jail 'option', the politician will be out of pocket by at least nine times the actual fine as he was ordered by Belfast High Court yesterday to pay £3,000 costs to the inquiry team.

Taking into account the fine itself and an estimated £35,000 of his own legal costs to date, then the case is set to cost him around £43,000.

Judge Mr Justice Gillen said the public interest in knowing the name of the prison officer who told Mr Paisley about a file destruction policy within the prison service in the wake of the killing by INLA inmates outweighed the pledge of confidentiality Mr Paisley had given his source.

Finding him in contempt of court, the judge said: "It is a recipe for legal anarchy for individuals to pick and choose with impunity those laws they will obey and those they will defy."

John Larkin QC, who was appearing for the Billy Wright Inquiry came in for criticism from the DUP man.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Paisley said that remarks made by Mr Larkin who had alleged the politician had "actually wanted to go to prison" was being "flippant and nasty".

He added that Mr Larkin, who is earmarked to be NI's attorney general on the devolution of policing and justice, would come to regret the comments.

(BMcC/JM)

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