Northern Ireland

Peter Hain contempt proceedings criticised by Blunkett

Peter Hain on the Andrew Marr show
Image caption Peter Hain faces proceedings over comments in his memoir

Former home secretary David Blunkett has criticised a decision by NI Attorney General John Larkin to take legal proceedings against Peter Hain.

The former secretary of state faces contempt of court proceedings over criticisms of a judge in his memoirs.

Mr Larkin has been granted leave to prosecute Mr Hain and his publishers over claims the passage "undermines the administration of justice".

But Mr Blunkett told the Commons people were entitled to "fair comment".

He described the legislation being used to prosecute Mr Hain as an "outdated and discredited law".

"Shouldn't respect for the independence of the judiciary be balanced by the rights of individuals to fair comment on that judiciary," Mr Blunkett said.

Responding, Prime Minister David Cameron said he had sympathy for that argument.

"There are occasions as we all know when judges make critical remarks about politicians and there are occasionally times when politicians make critical remarks about judges," he said.

"To me this is part of life in a modern democracy and I think we want to keep these things as far as possible out of the courts."

Mr Hain's remarks about Lord Justice Girvan's handling of a case caused controversy in Belfast when the book was published.

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