Two staff suspended from AG’s Chambers

Stephen Harding

Stephen Harding

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Two members of the Attorney General’s chambers are currently suspended, Tynwald was told.

Chief Minister Allan Bell, in a written reply to a question from Peter Karran (Lib Van, Onchan) said every effort was being made to progress disciplinary procedures in both cases as quickly as possible.

He did not name the individuals involved for reasons of confidentiality.

But one will be Attorney General Stephen Harding who remains suspended pending disciplinary proceedings.

Mr Harding, 52, of Glen Vine, was formally found not guilty of charges of perjury and committing acts against public justice last month after juries failed to reach verdicts following a high-profile criminal trial and subsequent retrial.

In Tynwald, Mr Karran asked which members of the Attorney General’s Chambers are suspended from duty; how long each suspension has lasted; what the cost to public funds has been of each suspension; and what progress has been made with resolving the issues in each case, with a likely time for resolution of each case.

Mr Bell replied that the civil service disciplinary process, under which all members of the staff employed in Chambers are bound, is a confidential process and so he could not identify any actual member of Chambers who might be suspended from duty.

He said: ‘Concerned as I must be to respect and protect the well-being of any staff members who might be so suspended I also then have a difficulty in providing information as to how long each suspension has lasted or the cost of each suspension as in our small jurisdiction and because of my small complement of staff and perhaps also from what is already in the public domain it will not be difficult to put disclosed facts to the personalities involved and so defeat the concern we might all share as to the confidentiality owed.’

Mr Bell confirmed there are two members of Chambers who currently under the civil service disciplinary rules are on precautionary suspension.

He said: ‘I can assure members that every effort is being made to progress the disciplinary processes as quickly as possible.’

The acting Attorney General revealed both these cases are being investigated outside Chambers for reasons which he said would not be appropriate for him to disclose.

For this reason, he said he could not say what the likely timescale is for each case before they reach a conclusion. ‘Both cases raise complex issues on which it would not be appropriate for me to comment,’ he said.

And he added: ‘As far as costs associated with the suspensions are concerned, two salaries continue to be paid to the members of staff on precautionary suspension. In addition, the cost of personnel to cover for the suspended members is currently in the order of £200,000 per year.’

Mr Bell was replying on behalf of acting Attorney General John Quinn who has not yet had his term of office extended by the UK Ministry of Justice.

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