“The days of British MI5 Agents scurrying around Ireland to record the thoughts of Irishmen to put them away must now be consigned to the past”.
A ROW has broken out in England after a former judge suggested using non-jury trials to relieve a backlog in the judicial system.
His honour Michael Heath suggested that suspending trial by jury on a temporary basis could help alleviate the problem. Mr Heath said that while jury trials are “the cornerstone of our criminal justice system will implode”. However, while Covid has contributed to the backlog of cases in England and Wales it is certainly not completely responsible. I say England and Wales because that was the jurisdiction that Mr Heath was talking about when he made his ‘radical’ suggestion. His comments drew criticism from a number of quarters. Among them the Secret Barrister, an online cover name for a serving QC responsible for a best selling book about the workings, and at times shambolic, nature of the judicial system (His/her book is very good, I highly recommend it). The Secret Barrister argued that while the backlog of cases is unacceptable, “tearing up the right to jury trial, and replacing it with trial by a single judge and two magistrates” was not the answer. “It would be a disaster. Make no mistake.
“Whatever the arguments for and against jury trial, it is beyond dispute that trial by a single judge and two magistrates is a lesser form of Justice” the Secret Barrister added. There was a flurry of comments agreeing with the online expert about this proposed perversion of justice. Meanwhile in the North of Ireland we’ve had non-jury trials since 1973, and they remain in place 22 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The government technically abolished the old Diplock Courts in 2007. However, it give the Director of Public Prosecutions power to decide when cases should be tried without a jury, particularly if there was a chance of jurors being intimidated. That has to be reviewed every two years with it next under consideration in April 2021. And so if the argument is that dispensing with a jury speeds up the process, then the state of the North of Ireland’s judicial system would suggest that is simply not the case, not the sase
The trial of Colin Duffy (52) and his co-defdants Alex McCory (58) and 51-year-old Harry Fitzsimons is still ongoing in a Diplock Court in Belfast. The three men were arrested after an attack on a police patrol in north Belfast in December 2013.
It is now June 2020, any verdict in that trial is likely to coincide with the seventh anniversary of the gun attack the three men deny taking part in. And so the removal of a jury is certainly not the magic wand to speedy justice, not in the North of Ireland anyway. The underfunding of the legal system over many years has placed enormous stress on the system. But it goes deeper than that as anyone that has ever worked in a court in the North will tell you. The wheels of justice turn painfully slow in this part of the world.
There are plans under way to try and rectify that, to do away with committal hearings in serious cases that spend months bouncing around a Magistrates Court before being sent to the Crown where they were destined for anyway. A consultation is to be carried out to consider a strategic approach to restorative practices for adults in the criminal justice system.
Diversionary orders could be used to deal with less serious cases where there is no risk to the public. But all of this takes time, requires proper funding and a buy-in from all involved agencies. In the interim, victims often drop out of cases or are put through further truma having to live with the anxious anticipation of giving evidence for months, even years – a completely unacceptable situation. A decision on returning to the use of juries for serious or paramilitary trails remains years away. Will we once again have the extension of a ‘lesser form of Justice’ here in the North of Ireland, where there are frequent reminders that despite the words of Margaret Thatcher, when it comes to equality under law we are definitely not “as British as Finchley”.
AWith many thanks to the: Irish News and Allison Morris Security Correspondent for the original story
Follow these links to find out more: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/courts/alleged-recordings-of-republicans-compared-in-belfast-police-murder-bid-trial-38947538.html
Former dissident warns of massive recruitment drive
A ONCE senior dissident republican, jailed for his part in a bombing plot, has said a hard Brexit would be used by armed republican groups to stage a “massive recruitment drive”.
Fermanagh man John Connolly was at one time considered the most dangerous and active member of the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA). In November 2000 Connolly was arrested at the Teemore crossroads in Co Fermanagh by undercover soldiers in possession of a large mortar bomb containing around 100 kilos of homemade explosives. He received a 14-year jail term for the bomb plot, two other men who were with him received 13 years. while in jail he became the spokesperson for the Real IRA prisoners. In an interview with online news site The Journal, (link below), Connolly said he cut all ties with armed groups after being released from prison in 2007 and did not wish to see a return to violence. However, he said that, based on his own experience, any form of physical infrastructure at the border would be seen as the manifestation of “a foreign occupying military force”.
“Cameras would be regarded as spy posts and removed by the local population in border areas”, he said. “The British government don’t seem to have learned from the past. From oppression grows resistance. It definitely does. We’re living in peaceful times at the minute an no-one wants to go back to the war years.” Connolly was sentenced to a five-year term in prison in the early 1990s for gathering information on behalf of the Provisional IRA, but broke away in 1997 to join the RIRA. He said he “did not agree with the decommissioning of IRA weapons”. “That’s why I broke all contact with the Provisional movement,” he said. “You do have armed groups out there that are continuing the struggle. But I am not in support of armed struggle myself. “I’ll not condemn people who are… I would be a hypocrite if I did, especially with my past of being involved in armed actions myself.”
With many thanks to: Allison Morris Security Correspondent and The Irish News for the origional posting.
The Omagh bombing was carried out by dissident republicans several months after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement
The Omagh bomb could have been prevented if the security forces had acted differently, a former police ombudsman has claimed.
Baroness Nuala O’Loan made the comments on the 20th anniversary of the greatest single loss of life in the Troubles.
The chief constable rejected her claim and said her comments would further “traumatise” victims’ families.
A woman pregnant with twins was among 29 people killed in the dissident republican attack on 15 August 1998.
In Omagh, a bell will be rung 32 times in memory of the victims later on Wednesday.
The additional, single peal will be rung for all who have lost their lives in atrocities around the world.
‘Could have been stopped’
Baroness O’Loan who investigated the police’s actions in the lead up to the bombing, said: “When I reported on Omagh I said we didn’t know whether the bomb could have been prevented.
“It is now my very firm view that the bomb could have been prevented.”
The men behind the attack
Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt was responsible for the Omagh bomb, a High Court judge found in a civil case in 2009.
Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly were also found liable for the attack.
Seamus McKenna was cleared. He died in 2013.
The four men were named by Mr Justice Morgan in a ruling made as part of a landmark case taken by some of the families of the victims.
The 12 relatives were awarded more than £1.6m in damages for the attack but to date none has been paid.
“There was sufficient intelligence to take action. The taking of that action could have prevented the bomb from exploding.
“This wasn’t just a random bomb. The police knew an awful lot about the activities of the IRA in this area.”
Baroness O’Loan repeated her calls for a public inquiry to be held.
When she was police ombudsman, her office carried out an investigation into the police’s handlings of warnings before the bombing.
She said the intelligence services were tracking the movements of the car containing the bomb from the Republic of Ireland.
A painful day
By BBC News NI’s Julian Fowler , in Omagh
Omagh’s Market Street is busy with shoppers as it was on this date 20 years ago.
Relatives who have organised today’s event say it is about remembrance, hope and moving forward, recognising the forgotten people of the Omagh bomb, such as the emergency services and the ordinary people who helped in the aftermath.
For some the anniversary is too painful to join the public commemoration.
They will remember their loved ones in their own way.
This morning one person came alone to lay a bunch of flowers at the memorial.
Others will spend the afternoon at the graveside of their loved ones.
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable George Hamilton rejected the idea that police could have prevented the bomb.
“If it is factually true and can be proven to any standard of proof whatsoever, why did she not say it in 2001 when she published her report?,” he told The Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster.
“Then, when she held the office, when she had access to all the material, she came to the conclusion that she could not know based on all that information if the bomb could have been prevented.
“She now has changed her position on that, without real explanation.”
Omagh bomb timeline
15 August 1998 – A large car bomb explodes on a Saturday afternoon in the centre of Omagh, County Tyrone, fatally wounding 29 people
18 August 1998 – The Real IRA claims responsibility for the bomb
6 August 2003 – Alleged founder and leader of the Real IRA Michael McKevitt is found guilty of directing terrorism
Kevin Skelton, whose wife Philomena died in the Real IRA atrocity said that Baroness O’Loan’s comments do not “make any difference”.
“Telling us now that the bomb could have been prevented is a bit late,” he told BBC Radio Foyle.
“It should have been prevented at the time.
“It won’t bring my wife back.”
A town remembers
The Omagh bombing was carried out by the dissident republican Real IRA, several months after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
The bomb, which was packed with 225kg of explosives, detonated in a vehicle parked in the middle of the main street just after 15:10 BST on 15 August 1998.
A warning had been called in 40 minutes earlier but had given the wrong location of the car containing the bomb.
The dead included three generations of one family.
No-one has been convicted over the bombing.
The bell-ringing event is part of a public vigil to be held at the bottom of Market Street, beginning at 14:55.
The bell will stop ringing 15 minutes later, at the time of the explosion, and will be followed by a two-minute silence.
Omagh bomb: Community Youth Choir 20 years on
Flower petals will be distributed, which people can scatter in the river, or place in the pond of a memorial garden created to remember the victims.
These event is being co-ordinated by a group of organisations, including Omagh Support & Self Help Group, Families Moving On and the Omagh Churches’ Forum.
On Sunday, a cross-community service was held at the town’s memorial gardens.
Victims and their families were remembered with prayers, music and speeches.
Each year over the past 20 years, people have come together to mark the anniversary, but this year’s event in the memorial garden will be the last to take place on this scale.
Last year, relatives of the victims announced they would sue George Hamilton for failings they believed allowed the killers to escape justice.
Mr Hamilton said on Sunday he understood why the families would feel “angry and let down”, adding that even the huge amount of investigative effort – with 99 arrests and 11,000 investigative actions by the PSNI and An Garda Síochána (Irish police) – “is not good enough”.
“People have not been brought to justice… but the families have an assurance from me that if new evidence emerges, we will actively pursue that. But it is also fair to say, and realistic, that as time goes by, the chances of a criminal justice outcome reduces,” he said.
With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story.
Stop the extradition of Liam Campbell to Lithuaina
Liam Campbell, an alleged Real IRA leader, will argue that he cannot receive a fair trial in Lithuania because his brother’s terrorism conviction was found to have been based on entrapment.
Campbell, 54, of Upper Faughart in north Louth, who was found liable for the 1998 Omagh bomb in a civil action eight years ago, appeared in the High Court in Dublin yesterday to contest his extradition to Lithuania, where he is accused of a Real IRA plot to buy large quantities of explosives and weapons.
Brian Gageby, his barrister, told the court that he wanted an adjournment while he sought an English translation of Michael Campbell’s trial and appeal in Vilnius. Mr Gageby is preparing to argue that Liam Campbell cannot receive a fair trial, which is required under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Campbell’s brother was convicted in Lithuania in 2011 of conspiracy to buy weapons and explosives, following a joint MI5-Lithuanian police operation. Michael Campbell was jailed for twelve years but his conviction was overturned on appeal in 2013 on the grounds that he was entrapped by MI5. Liam Campbell is now seeking a transcript of that appeal to use in his case.
Since Michael Campbell returned to Ireland the highest court in Lithuania overturned the appeal, finding that the appeal court erred in putting too much weight on entrapment defence. As a result Michael Campbell may also be extradited back to Lithuania.
Judge Aileen Donnelly agreed to adjourn Liam Campbell’s case for a month yesterday to allow the state and the defence to prepare documents.
Campbell is receiving free legal aid to fight extradition, claiming that he will not get a fair trial and also that prison conditions in Lithuania are so bad that they violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The article prohibits extradition if there is a “substantial risk” that the person will undergo inhumane or degrading treatment.
He won on Article 3 grounds when Lithuania sought to extradite him from Northern Ireland, after which he was released by the High Court in Belfast and was rearrested in the Republic. Campbell’s co-accused, Brendan McGuigan, 36, of Omeath, Co Louth, was previously released by the High Court in Dublin, also because prison conditions in Lithuania would be a violation of his rights under Article 3.
Both men are wanted in Lithuania for allegedly organising a Real IRA explosives and weapons importation scheme. A Lithuanian arrest warrant read in court states that Campbell “made arrangements for illegal possession of a considerable amount of powerful firearms, ammunition, explosive devices and substances” to be exported from Lithuania to Ireland for use by a “terrorist grouping”.
The cargo was allegedly to include sniper rifles, rocket launchers, RPG-7 rockets, hand-grenades and Semtex explosives.
Campbell was allegedly a senior Real IRA member when the offences were committed in late 2006 and early 2007 and is alleged to have met with a British intelligence officer posing as an east European arms dealer.
with many thanks to: Irish Republican Prisoner News.
With many thanks to: Sunday world.