Barra and George

Barra McGrory has been in post since 2011. Time enough , you might think, to get the basics right.

Let’s look at how his team is doing on disclosure.

Disclosure,  Dear Reader is an obligation placed on the prosecution to give to the defence any material [statements, forensics etc.] that might be considered capable of undermining the case for the prosecution or of assisting the case for the accused. In other words the prosecution cannot hide evidence which does not suit their case.

This month,  Criminal Justice Inspection NI published a report into the quality of police files.

It found that “disclosure was dealt with satisfactorily by police in only 23% of Crown Court cases. This is unacceptable”.

In his report Brendan McGuigan , Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice, listed the consequences of disclosure obligations not being followed. See para 3.41. Astonishingly, he failed to mention the most important risk of all, that an innocent man might be convicted.

Imagine that you are wrongly accused of shoplifting. Your defence is that you were not in the shop at the time, you were walking in the local  park. The police fail to disclose that they took a statement from a man who  recognised you , walking a dog.

You are convicted.

The issue of disclosure has featured in many  appeals and  in references by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. It is not new and it is not rocket science and the subsequent acquittals or quashings of conviction may only be the tip of the iceberg.

You might be tempted to say ‘ now that it has been highlighted I’m sure George and Barra will fix it’.

Well, in April 2013 the Inspector found that the PPS records of continuing disclosure to defence teams were “not good” and some compliances were “very poor”.

So what did Barra say about that?

He said ” I am confident that the PPS can rise to the challenges highlighted”.

Well Barra, as they say in Belfast has not “riz” at all. This despite publicly criticising PSNI files in March 2012 , only four months into the job, in an effort to divert attention away from his underachieving and dysfunctional Service.

The lesson?  Try not to be prosecuted in the Crown Court in Northern Ireland. It is a dangerous place for defendants.

All of this has received little coverage in a media obsessed with sensation.

More disturbingly, unless I have missed it ,the Criminal Bar Association [with justice  as its watchword],  has not commented on this limp  performance by Barra and George.

Barra would serve justice better by putting his head down and delivering a first class prosecution system, instead of sound bites.

Advertisements

Humpty Dumpty sat on the fence

Humpty Dumpty told Alice that if he ever fell off the wall, the King would send all his horses and all his men to pick him up.

Our own policing Humpty Dumpty can look forward to the Queen sending him a knighthood, providing he stays on the fence.

Last night Sharon O’Neill asked him a very obvious question; “Who is the leader of PIRA?”

His answer was that membership is a criminal offence and he wasn’t going to do or say anything or speculate on anything which could undermine any future court proceedings.

So there you are Dear Reader, the Chief Con is on the case “following the evidence”. Can’t you see him with his magnifying glass and cape , accompanied by Joe 90, examining the footpaths of West Belfast?

Of course he could have arrested a sizeable proportion of PIRA high command the other week when he met them in a hall in West Belfast, a hall being guarded by a PIRA run security company. He shook hands with a man who has murdered many innocent people. The butchers boy from the Bogside.

To imagine for a moment. George causes a file to be sent to Barra-Boy. It contains evidence against senior members of PIRA, it being a proscribed organisation. Barra, because of his past would have to pass it to the team which bought you such block busters as Cahill and McCartney.

This is just a little fantasy for two reasons.

  1. A number of the northern command and the Belfast brigade PIRA are state agents. Therefore George and MI5 know exactly what is going on in PIRA and keep the Secretary of State informed.
  2. I have been asking since 1990 why no senior member of PIRA was questioned about the murders of my parents.

No senior member of PIRA has ever been convicted.

As Northern Ireland descends into chaos and farce with this , Nama, Red Sky and other imbecilic acts, will the unionist parties have the courage to act?

Don’t hold your breath. As they often say in Ahoghill; “Deus ex machina”.

The Humpty Dumpty world of the Chief Constable

“When use a word” , Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone,”it means just what I chose it to mean, neither more nor less”. [Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and through the Looking -Glass]

For a masterly summary of the position, see Ed Moloney in today’s Irish Times.

And so to George Hamilton’s finessing of Supt Geddes’ last statement. Goodness know how many lawyer hours went into it. How many drafts the SOS rejected. What Box had to say about it.

George says that PIRA is a paramilitary organisation, devoted to peaceful means, just like the Salvation Army.

Here are my questions for George:

  1. Has this organisation access to arms and explosives?
  2. Has it killed anyone in the last twenty years?
  3. Who shot Martin McGartland?
  4. If PIRA is committed to politics, who are its politicians?

I’ll bet that I won’t get a reply.

Hamilton says that they will go where the evidence leads. It’s a statement like Hercule Poirot saying ” I suspect everyone and I suspect no-one” [you do the Belgian accent].

In the twenty five years since the murder of my parents, the police have declined to follow the evidence, to the Belfast brigade of the IRA and onwards to McGuinness. What hope is there that anything has changed?

So, when George uses a word, it means precisely what his political masters, who appointed him and who control him, want it to mean.

Handshake

It is said that it originated as a way of showing that you were unarmed.

English barristers do not shake hands because as ‘ learned friends’ that have no need of this display.

There have been many famous handshakes. Hitler/Chamberlin, Nixon/Mao, Sadat/Begin, Rabin/Arafat, McGuinness/ Elizabeth Saxe- Coburg-Gotha.

These have been ground breaking moments.

So why did  George Hamilton , stolid, NIO Gopher, go to West Belfast and shake the hand of  McGuinness, terrorist, gunman, murderer of policemen and others, member of PIRA Northern Command, and sometime member of PIRA Army Council?

What was the hidden agenda? What was the purpose? McGuinness confessed to having been momentarily in  PIRA, like Clinton confessed to smoking dope but not inhaling.

Is there a clue in what was said?

Hamilton  said ” there were serious problems with policing in the past”.

McGuinness said “tonight is another act of reconciliation”.

Leaving aside the  Relate-like language of these two almost former lovers [you don’t bring me flowers anymore], on whose behalf does Hamilton speak? Certainly not those officers killed, maimed or still living daily with their scars.

Certainly not on behalf of my parents, whom he refers to as a “legacy issue”.

Perhaps on behalf of Bryan Harold Harris or Anne Harris? The brother and mother of his deputy, whose father was killed by PIRA on 8 October 1989, on the orders of McGuinness?

Will he look his deputy in the eye on Monday morning?

Is the message from the PSNI that there will be no more arrests of senior Provos? Their head of intelligence Bobby Storey shared the platform. Hamilton had no issue with that.

And what of the other branches of government? Who knows what messages are being whispered into the ears of the judges in the back corridor?

The Secretary of State may not be able to fix welfare reform but there is a lot more on the republican agenda that we don’t see and which can be attended to.

Not all landmark handshakes survive. Hitler, Arafat…maybe we can add Marty and Liz to that list?

But wait! the most famous modern handshake of all! Blair and Gadafy! I’m coming for you soon Tony!

“These legacy issues”

Interviewed on BBC Panorama and shown tonight, the Chief Constable referred to “these legacy issues”

Well, I have news for him.

The murders of my parents were crimes. Crimes which his force has failed to solve. Crimes where the papers were put in a box and stored away , probably months after the bomb. The exhibits were destroyed.

My parents were real living victims of crime.

They are not a “legacy”, nor an “issue”.

I suppose I should not be surprised that , having been selected as a safe pair of hands by the state, he trots out the state’s line.

Readers, particularly those who have also lost loved ones might well think  [like I do] that George Hamilton’s attitude stinks.