Saturday, November 10, 2007

Planned Spontaneity

Paul Quinn from south Armagh was beaten to death across the border in Monaghan, apparently after falling out with local goons whose exact relationship to the IRA is not clear. Baron John Laird has announced that on Monday, he will use parliamentary privilege in the House of Lords to name those believed responsible. The names have already allegedly appeared in graffiti around Quinn's home town and on social networking websites.

Now the Houses of Lords and Commons can make pretty much any rules they want for what is said in the houses, but announcing ahead of time that you intend to use the special privilege to skirt around a legal investigation is a dodgy move. For one thing, one could argue that the purpose of the privilege is to allow free debate in the strict sense of the word, meaning that as an issue is being discussed, no one should feel constrained for being in the moment and letting the debate flow. But in this case there's no debate. He's just going to do it, regardless of what is actually said on Monday.

An added problem is that the crime occurred outside the UK, with the possibility that any prosecution could be in the Republic of Ireland. It's not clear how an Irish court would handle a defence claim of prejudicial information that originated in another country.

Needless to say, despite the above reservations, we'll be Hansarding away on Monday to see what happens!

UPDATE: See here.

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