Paterson: My duty is to protect the public

Owen Paterson

                                        Owen Paterson

OWEN Paterson has defended his decision to revoke the licence which allowed Old Bailey bomber Marian Price out of jail under the Belfast Agreement.

The Old Bailey bomber was returned to prison last year after intelligence provided to the Secretary of State linked her to terrorism.

She also faces a charge in connection with the murders of two soldiers at Massereene Barracks. Last week, a judge dismissed charges against Price and three men arising from an Easter commemoration.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have claimed that she is being “interned” but unionists have supported the decision.

On Sunday, the DUP’s Peter Weir said he wouldn’t “be crying too many tears” over Price.

Yesterday, in the Commons, Mr Paterson made a carefully-worded statement about “a matter of huge consequence and debate in Northern Ireland” without referring to Price by name.

He said that the Parole Commissioners, who are appointed by the Stormont Justice Minister, were responsible for decisions on the release and recall of life-sentence prisoners.

“If information is brought to my attention, I share it with the commissioners and seek a recommendation from them regarding whether to revoke a licence.

“If they recommend that I do so, I will revoke, because I have a duty to protect the public… The commissioners make their decision on whether to release the prisoner because they are no longer a risk to the public, or whether the prisoner should stay in custody. The commissioners’ decision is binding.”

The growth of secret ’evidence’ and the case of Marian Price

The Detail

Daniel Holder is Deputy Director of the CAJ

Daniel Holder is Deputy Director of the CAJ

There were two significant reminders last week about the creeping use of secret ‘evidence.’ The first was the continued imprisonment of Marian McGlinchey (née Price) despite her three co-accused walking free when a judge threw out charges against all four. Marian Price was technically speaking already ‘out on bail’ in relation to these charges (which the Prosecution Service may now seek to resurrect). Her continued imprisonment relates not to a decision by a Court, but a separate procedure involving a government Minister and a Commission which can rely on secret evidence.

The second reminder was the UK Coalition Government’s inclusion of an ominously titled ‘Justice and Security Bill’ within the list of laws it announced it would introduce in the next Parliamentary session. The Bill would allow government Ministers to instruct ‘CMPs’ – Closed Material Procedures (i.e. secret evidence) be used in civil court processes. Our local circumstances were not for once the impetus for such a dramatic change (although as it could include the likes of ‘Troubles’ Inquests, it would have serious repercussions here). The move is in response to MI5/6 involvement in ‘war on terror’ practices such as ‘extraordinary rendition’ (i.e. the kidnap, torture and unlawful detention of persons) being increasingly challenged in Court, and in particular the compensation settlements being paid to Guantanamo Bay detainees. The Government argues it needs CMPs in order to allow secret trials to protect ‘national security. ’ They also conveniently reduce the potential to hold the Security Services accountable for malpractice or human rights abuses in which they are implicated.

There is general outrage from human rights groups over the proposals. Amidst this, we should not lose sight of the fact that secret evidence procedures already exist– many piloted and specific to this jurisdiction. Persons who have their fair employment discrimination claims blocked by a ‘national security certificate’ issued by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) can only have their claims heard in a ‘special tribunal’ involving secret evidence – which predates its better known counterpart tribunal for persons subject to ‘Control Orders.’ CAJhas asked under the Freedom of Information Act how many certificates have been issued and how often the ‘special tribunal’ has convened – only to be told that the NIO ‘did not record’ such information. Should you be subject to such processes, you can expect that both you, your lawyer, and the public will be excluded from your court hearing. Secret ‘evidence’, usually based on security force intelligence data, is then presented against you, which you cannot challenge. A ‘Special Advocate’ is appointed to represent you but cannot discuss the secret ‘evidence’ with you. At best, you and your representatives are given a ‘gist’ of what is being alleged.

Similar procedures also apply for recalling to prison persons with conflict-related convictions who were released under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Such releases were ‘under licence,’ conditional on no re-involvement in paramilitary activity. The question which arises is how the conclusion is reached that someone has returned to such activity. The decision is not on the basis of a fresh conviction for a similar serious offence proved beyond reasonable doubt in a competent court, but rather a variation of the above CMPprocess involving the NIO, Secretary of State and a Commission, which can rely on secret ‘evidence’ in a closed ‘Special Advocate’ procedure. Marian Price was released long before the 1998 Agreement, having been convicted of bombing the Old Bailey in 1973, but issued with a royal pardon in 1980. A similar process exists under the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001 whereby the NIO Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, can provide the Parole Commissioners with evidence and invite them to make a recommendation to return an individual to prison. Such decisions can also be based on secret ‘evidence,’ including intelligence data, and do not require a conviction or even a charge. At worst, therefore, the process could be used selectively against ex-prisoners engaged in political activity outside the mainstream, rather than just against those genuinely involved in unlawful activity.

The case of Marian Price is particularly striking, as on the same day a Judge released her on bail in May 2011, a government Minister returned her to prison. There are other due process issues in relation to this case, not least the fact she was given a pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. The NIO claims this document only related to Marian Price’s fixed term and not life sentence for which a licence applied. Her family contest that the pardon related to both, and hence believe that the NIO had no licence to revoke. It would seem a relatively simple matter for the NIO to produce the document to settle the matter. However, apparently the pardon and all copies of it have gone ‘missing.’ Given that it could possibly change a decision as to whether a person is deprived of their liberty, one would think an investigation would have taken place as to how and when the information disappeared. CAJ has been told that the NIO have decided not to investigate this on the grounds that the pardon is ‘not relevant’ to this case. Whilst decisions in ‘special tribunals’ are made on the basis of evidence that defendants cannot see, it is difficult to understand how the NIO reached this conclusion without itself viewing the document.

The dangers of secret ‘evidence’ within the justice system were set out succinctly in the case of Al Rawi, and others v the Security Services. Here, the government tried to argue that legal norms over the years (the ‘common law’) meant that it had a right to hold civil trials in secret, despite no law permitting this. The UK Supreme Court threw this out, with Lord Kerr arguing that the “right to be informed of the case made against you is not merely a feature of the adversarial system of trial, it is an elementary and essential prerequisite of fairness.”

It is this case that has led to the present Justice and Security Bill introducing CMPs. In response, Special Advocates themselves have argued CMPs “represent a departure from the foundational principle of natural justice that all parties are entitled to see and challenge all the evidence relied upon before the court and to combat that evidence by calling evidence of their own.” Put simply, evidence cannot be relied upon if you cannot challenge it.

CAJ expressed concerns about the CMP proposals, given our experience that measures which effectively bypass rule of law standards and establish, in essence, a parallel justice system, lead to human rights abuses which can exacerbate conflict as well as contributing to the growing marginalisation of ‘suspect communities.’ A further problem highlighted above is that secret evidence tends to consist of intelligence data which the Police themselves are often keen to (rightly) point out does not necessarily constitute evidence. However, under the present recall arrangements, ‘intelligence’ can effectively be used as ‘evidence’ to put an ex-prisoner behind bars.

This is of course not the first time that intelligence rather than evidence has been used to imprison; previous policies of mass arrest and internment involved lists of suspects based on ‘intelligence’ data. The lesson needs to be learned that illegitimate state practices outside the standard rule of law do not prevent but rather fuel conflict. Further growth in procedures allowing secret ‘evidence’ would have serious consequences, but in Marian Price’s case, such consequences are already apparent.

Daniel Holder is Deputy Director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice

CAJ wrote a detailed response in January 2012 to the ‘Justice and Security’ Green Paper setting out the organisations concerns about the proposals – this is availablehere

WITH MANY THANKS TO : THE DETAIL.

KEEPING PRICE IN JAIL POSES GREATER THREAT !!!

DOES Anyone honestly believe Marian Price is a threat to national security? At almost 60 and in very poor & mental & physical health, the one-time radical republican has long since passed her revolutionary sell-by-date.

The deterioration in her health leaves her unable to even sit through a video-link court appearance, never mind oversee the actions of an armed dissident republican group. However, for those opposed to peace what she does represent is a link with a past romanticised by disillusioned former IRA members. Her conviction for bombing the Old Bailey along with her sister Dolours and one-time close friend and fellow bomber turned political enemy Gerry Kelly led to imprisonment in Englandwhere the sisters were both force-fed daily in the most violent of circumstances. 

They became part of a campaign that gained massive support. As news of their ill-treatment went global and was made Public, thousands protested in rallies across Ireland. Marian Price’s present plight does not muster that support in such numbers. The most vocal callers for her release now come in the unlikely guise of the SDLP which has been outspoken in it’s condemnation of keeping a women fast approaching pensionable age behind bars.

Gerry Kelly
Gerry Kelly

The revoking of life licences remains a sore point – it is a process overseen by a British secretary of state and beyond the control of a locally elected justice minister. Mr Owen Patterson ( now resigned ) deemed Price a threat to NATIONAL SECURITY ” I doubt that the MP for North Shropshire knows Price personally and therefore we have to assume he acted on advice given by a security source here. Whether that was directly from the PSNI or the more shadowy security agencies or another unknown source may never be known, as legally the secretary of state does not have to reveal details of the ” intelligence ” that led to his assessment. Charges against the Veteran republican relating to a rally in which a masked Real IRA member read out a statement were last week dramatically thrown out of court. The judge presiding over the case had previously warned the prosecution to get it’s finger out in a case that required no complicated forensic evidence yet had already taken more than a year to prepare. Despite last weeks ruling, the PPS has indicated an intention to push ahead with the prosecution via indictable summons. However, this is all irrelevant to Price’s plight as regardless of the out come of both this and a further charge of providing a mobile phone that police allege was used to claim the murder of two British soldiers at Massereene in 2009, she will still stay behind bars indefinitely while her licence has remains revoked.SAME WAR - SAME MEDIA COVER - UP !

Her detention has been likened to internment and it certainly has a whiff of the Guatanamo Bay about it, holding someone in isolation, without trail and with no release date. Doctors have deemed Price too mentally ill to take part in any court proceedings. That includes those conducted by the parole commissioners who preside over the sentence review board – the only people apart from the secretary of state with the power to release her. While this situation continues she remains in limbo. Leaving aside the implications to Price and her family there are potentially more sinister repercussions from such a seemingly undemocratic detention.

We enjoy a fragile peace that relies on the support of the public for the north’s institutions. As it becomes increasingly clear that politicians here enjoy only a limited amount of power and have no say over certain aspects of the justice department including the managing of life licences – this can cause a loss of confidence.

THINK OF THE POWS ON 24HR LOCK UP THEY ARE IN THERE FOR YOU BE OUT THERE FOR THEM !

It also points up a gaping flaw in the Stormont institutions, a fault easily exploited by those who oppose them. This discord manifests not in the leafy middle – class suburbs, where the detention of a former IRA bomber is unlikely to bring about outpourings of sympathy or make for dinner party conversation, but in places such as Derry, Lurgan and North and West Belfast where maintaining peace has always been a difficult juggling act and the danger of a return to violence is never too far away. Marian Price is a broken women. Releasing her poses no threat to Northern Ireland’s future but keeping her locked up does. It is now a critical situation that needs to be addressed before one women’s imprisonment is allowed to become a recruitment tool for those violently opposed to peace.

WITH MANY THANKS TO : ALLISON MORRIS, IRISH NEWS.

£194,000 BILL TO KEEP MARIAN PRICE IN PRISON !

    
NEW Figures reveal it cost almost £200,000 to house Old Bailey Bomber Marian Price in Maghaberry Prison for a nine month period before she was moved to Hydebank women’s prison earlier this year.
 
The 58-year-old, who served time in jail in 1973 for her part in the bombing of the Old Bailey and Scotland Yard which killed one person and injured 200 others, was returned to prison last year for her involvement at a dissident republican rally in Derry.
Speaking after Price was accused of encouraging support for an illegal organisation at the event in the city’s cemetery, Secretary of State Owen Paterson said her licence had been revoked because the threat she posed had ” significantly increased”. Price, also known by her married name McGlinchey, had previously been arrested during the investigation into the 2009 murders of two soilders at Massereene Army Barracks.
 
Later she was charged with providing a mobile phone for the purposes of terrorism. A Freedom of Information request revealed that the total cost of holding her in Maghaberry – an all-male-prison-until February 17th was £194,537, Among the costs were  £693 for food, more than £3,000 for refurbishment of the wing and almost £190,000 to staff the unit.
Price had been sent to Maghaberry following her arrest last year but was then moved to Hydebank on the advice of health trust staff.
 
 
WITH MANY THANKS TO : SARAH FOX, BELFAST TELEGRAPH.
 
 
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