Second Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:30 am on 3rd March 2009.

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Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea UUP 11:30 am, 3rd March 2009

I thank the Member for his helpful intervention. That was the point that I was trying to make. I think that I have got it right: defence against defamation can occur only if it is proven that the truth will out. Therefore, if one person said that a particular thing happened, but it was later shown that, in fact, that did not happen, in that person’s defence, it could be said that the absolute truth was not apparent.

Given that we give absolute privilege to the Comptroller and Auditor General, what procedural methods are in place for people who feel that they have been defamed, or for people who have not had a chance to put their case forward? In this instance, it is unlikely to happen, but we will have to consider who oversees the overseers. Perhaps the Minister will address that issue.

With regard to the legal position, it is interesting that, in cases such as Pepper v Hart, the comments that the Bill’s proponents make now will be party to our subsequent discussions. I ask the Minister to take that into account when he responds.