Belfast Telegraph

It's not only overkill to pursue Lord Maginnis over 80p - the case should never even have got this far in the first place

Editor's Viewpoint

It is one of those cases that make people wonder how it ever came to its present state. How does a peer of the realm end up being threatened with the bailiffs over what was originally an underpayment of 80p on a train fare, but which has now escalated to a fine of almost £1,500? Lord Maginnis says the bailiffs will have to break down his doors if they want to seize possessions to that value.

There seems to be acceptance that the original underpayment of the train fare was a mistake. He is hardly the sort of man willing to defraud the transport authorities of such a measly sum.

Lord Maginnis says the fines mounted up because he was not present at the court case where the matter was heard. He claims that he turned up at two earlier scheduled hearings that were postponed.

He feels he is acting on principle in refusing to pay up, even to the extent of being willing to go to jail. That is hardly surprising of a man who has a known stubborn streak - the sort of stubbornness that allowed him to face down numerous death threats from terrorists during his time in the UDR and in political life in Northern Ireland.

He is not the sort of man to back down from a challenge or from a position when he feels in the right. He was a loyal supporter of David Trimble, now also a Lord, when he was First Minister in Northern Ireland and who, along with the SDLP, set the template for power-sharing and devolution.

Ironically, David Trimble was virtually forced out of office by the two parties who now follow that same template, the DUP and Sinn Fein.

One of the tests of any legal case is that the punishment should be proportional to the crime. While this newspaper accepts that wrong-doers deserve to be punished, it has grave reservations whether this case should have ever come before the courts. Most certainly it should not have escalated to this scale. This is really a case where a sledgehammer has been used to crack a nut, and the only winners will be the lawyers.

Belfast Telegraph


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