NI: MLA standards commissioner denies relying on Wikipedia

Douglas Bain
Douglas Bain

The Northern Ireland Assembly’s standards commissioner has firmly denied accusations that he relied on Wikipedia while conducting an inquiry into an MLA’s conduct.

Douglas Bain looked up the definition of “dishonesty” on an online dictionary and then looked up dishonesty cases on Wikipedia during an investigation into the conduct of Jimmy Spratt MLA, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

However, Mr Bain told the newspaper: “One of the issues that I had to consider during my investigation of the conduct of Jimmy Spratt MLA was the correct interpretation of the word ‘honesty’ in the Code of Conduct.

“As part of my initial research into that matter I perused a number of online sources including the Collins English Dictionary and Wikipedia.

“These led me to the relevant case law and in particular to the judgement in R v Gosh EWCA Crim 2. It is misleading to suggest that I relied in any way on Wikipedia ‘to check the law’.”

Mr Bain is a trained lawyer and a member of the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland.

However, Mr Spratt said it was “crazy” that Mr Bain “had to go to Collins dictionary to define dishonesty” and had “used Wikipedia to glean information about dishonesty and about legal cases around it”.

Mr Spratt was eventually cleared of wrongdoing following the investigation.

He resigned as an MLA in September 2015 due to health reasons.

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