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Call for University to reconsider Hutton honour

4 February, 2004


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Higher education Michael Ferguson has accused the University of Ulster of displaying 'gross insensitivity to the nationalist and republican community'. Mr Ferguson's comments come after they awarded an honorary doctorate to the former Diplock and Supergrass Judge Lord Hutton.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Hutton has a record over a period of thirty years of representing all that was wrong with the judiciary and the criminal justice system in the six counties.

"In 1973 when, representing the Ministry of Defence at the Widegery Tribunal he justified the actions of the Paras in Derry when they murdered 13 unarmed civilians. He has since stood by the discredited findings of Widegery,

"In 1978, he defended the British government against the allegations of torture against internees, a case taken by the Irish government. Three years later he acquitted a British soldier who drove into a group of teenagers in Derry killing two of them.

"Hutton was a prominent defender of the supergrass system, and in 1984 sentenced 10 men to a total of 1001 years, on the word of supergrass Robert Quigley. All were later cleared.

"He was also the judge who in 1986 acquitted RUC man Nigel Hegarty, who had shot and killed John Downes at a rally in West Belfast after he opened fire with plastic bullets on civilians at a sit-down protest.

"In the early 1990s at the trial of two Royal Marines charged with murdering Fergal Caragher in a shooting incident in Cullyhanna in 1990, he again acquitted the soldiers even though he admitted they might have been lying.

"And it was Hutton who was directly involved in the Brian Nelson affair. A week before Nelson's trial, which risked exposing British collusion with unionist death squads, Hutton and the trial judge met John Major. Nelson was then offered a deal to plead guilty to sample charges and he served just a few years in prison. The result of this was that the families of those murdered through collusion are still trying to seek the truth around the deaths of their loved ones.

"The decision of the Ulster University to give an individual with such a past an honorary doctorate is nothing sort of a disgrace. It is grossly offensive to nationalists and republicans studying at the university and the wider community from where they come. The Ulster University need to reconsider this decision." ENDS

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