Sinn Fein attacks UU over Hutton prize

February 13, 2004

Hardly has the furore died down after his report on the death of David Kelly, than Lord Hutton is at the centre of a new row in his home province.

Sinn Fein has attacked Ulster University over plans to confer an honorary degree on the beleaguered peer.

The party demanded the university reconsider the move to award Lord Hutton a doctor of law in this summer's graduation ceremonies for his legal role in the province.

The republican attack was based on the law lord's involvement in the province's non-jury former Diplock courts and in the so-called "supergrass" trials involving alleged paramilitary informers.

Michael Ferguson, Sinn Fein spokesman on higher education, accused UU of "gross insensitivity to the nationalist and republican community".

Mr Ferguson said: "Hutton has a record over a period of 30 years of representing all that was wrong with the judiciary and the criminal justice system in the six counties.

"The decision of UU to give an individual with such a past an honorary doctorate is nothing short of a disgrace.

Lord Hutton has been visitor for UU for the past four years.

A UU spokesman said that the degree was related to his higher education work. He added: "Lord Hutton brought to the role great integrity and dedication."

He said that the process of deciding on the recipients of honorary degrees began long before Lord Hutton's appointment to the inquiry into the death of government scientist David Kelly.

Lord Hutton was called to the Northern Ireland Bar and became a QC in 1970.

He became a High Court judge nine years later. In 1988, he became Lord Chief Justice, until 1997, when he was appointed a Lord of Appeal.

Student unions across the four UU campuses are meeting next week to debate the issue.

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