Paisley may lose salary over silence on source

 

IAN PAISLEY jnr could be stripped of his MLA’s salary for refusing to comply with a High Court order to reveal a source, it emerged yesterday.

A judge was told the Billy Wright Inquiry wants a fine imposed on the Democratic Unionist Assembly member for not disclosing the identity of an officer who told him about an alleged policy of file destruction within the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

Mr Paisley, who could yet be jailed for contempt of court, is expected to learn his fate later this month.

The North Antrim representative was served legal papers at Stormont on Wednesday confirming the tribunal’s intention to press for him to be penalised.

He has refused to co-operate with a direction to name the prison officer he says told him about emergency moves to destroy up to 5,600 files after Wright, leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force, was shot dead inside the Maze prison in December 1997.

The inquiry examining claims of collusion surrounding the paramilitary chief’s assassination obtained the order against him in April.

But Mr Paisley insists he cannot break a pledge of confidentiality given to his informant.

During a hearing at the High Court yesterday, which the DUP member was not required to attend, Mr Justice Gillen gave Mr Paisley’s lawyers seven days to submit any fresh legal arguments.

Joseph Aiken, counsel for Mr Paisley, confirmed that the inquiry was seeking to have his client fined.

The court was told a request for a daily financial penalty, together with an order which would allow the MLA’s salary to be docked, had been put forward.

“There are serious issues regarding remedy,” Mr Aiken said.

The barrister also questioned why it had taken the inquiry six weeks to bring its application to have Mr Paisley penalised.

But David Scoffield, for the tribunal, rejected any suggestion of delay.

He said: “The papers were served on his solicitors last week and only served on him yesterday by arrangement to convenience Mr Paisley.”

Mr Justice Gillen warned both sides that if they could not agree a hearing date he would personally fix the case to ensure it takes place before the end of term.

Mr Aiken told the judge: “Mr Paisley has made his position reasonable clear. He has always made the case that it is not possible for him to comply with the order.”