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JUDGES SLAM MAGILL FOR POSTURING TO PRESS

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The judges in the Westminster appeal case delivered a stinging rebuke to auditor John Magill for staging the 1994 p...
The judges in the Westminster appeal case delivered a stinging rebuke to auditor John Magill for staging the 1994 press conference at which he announced his provisional findings.

The controversial event had attracted massive media coverage and further soured relations between Mr Magill and those accused of wilful misconduct in the 'homes for votes' affair.

Lord Justice Rose, presiding, said a simple press statement would have been sufficient to convey Mr Magill's findings.

'Instead, a televised announcement was arranged at which the auditor himself appeared and, although he said his views were provisional, he expressed them in florid language and supported them by reference to the thoroughness of the investigation . . .

'There was a further feature of the event which should have had no place in the middle of a quasi-judicial inquiry. A stack of ring binders on the desk at which the auditor sat, bearing the name of his firm for the benefit of the cameras, was, ostensibly, under the protection of a security guard. Unless it was being implied that the persons under investigation might wish to steal the documents, it is not clear what was the purpose of this posturing.'

The judges expressed the hope that 'in any future statutory investigation ... no auditor will stage any similar event, which may undermine the perception ... of the auditor's open-mindedness'.

The judges also criticised the length and expense of Mr Magill's investigation, which took seven years and cost£3 million: 'Whether Parliament contemplated so gigantic an investigation by an auditor into an objection to local authority accounts we very much doubt. In our judgment in any future investigation of this kind it will be essential for the auditor to exercise a sense of proportion.'

A spokesman for Mr Magill said the auditor had no comment.

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