Judge Desmond Marrinan 'unfairly denied High Court job'

Judge Desmond Marrinan was appearing at Stormont's justice committee

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A judge who lost out on being appointed to Northern Ireland's High Court has claimed he was the victim of "flawed, unfair and biased" treatment.

Desmond Marrinan, a county court judge, told Stormont's justice committee he had outscored a rival candidate in assessments in 2009 but did not get the job.

He said significant changes were needed to make the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (NIJAC) "fit for purpose".

"The commission's determined and persistent unfair treatment of me has deprived me of a public competition and unfairly blocked my right to be a high court judge," he said.

'Harrowing experience'

Judge Marrinan said he believed the decision was illegal. He said it had damaged his career and caused him to suffer a serious illness.

"It is almost beyond belief that a group of people chosen from respected positions in our community could act collectively in this way," he said.

Judge Marrinan called for the reform of NIJAC, which is chaired by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan.

He said he believed the lord chief justice should have nothing to do with the commission.

"The lord chief justice of England and Wales has nothing to do with the similar body there - the chairman there must, by law, be a lay person," he told assembly members.

He said out of a 15-person committee in England and Wales, five were judges, but in the smaller jurisdiction of Northern Ireland it was six judges out of 13.

Judge Marrinan said a series of appeals he had taken against the decision, including complaints to the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman, had been a "harrowing experience".

Committee chairman Paul Givan said Judge Marrinan's testimony had been "very brave".

"It is incumbent now on this committee to take forward a piece of work that will interrogate all the evidence you have provided and hold people responsible for their actions," he said.

"If that leads to a requirement for fundamental reform of the process, I don't think you'll find this committee wanting in stepping up to the challenge."

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