An Abuse of Process

This letter was sent to the Irish News at the time Chris Ward was in PSNI custody. It was not published.

The ongoing detention of Chris Ward, the first person in the North to be held in police custody for longer than seven days, portends poorly for human rights. After more than a decade of a peace process it seems that the rights of a long abused citizenry have been weakened vis a vis the power of a long abusive police.

Regardless of what stage the investigation into the robbery at the Northern Bank has been reached, the threat to the civil liberties currently enjoyed by society is such that Chris Ward should be released immediately. The PSNI have carried on their investigation for almost a year. Doubtless they will be able to continue it without having to hold Chris Ward.

Those who have been in police custody know that it is demoralising experience. The purpose of extending the initial three day detention to seven days in the 1970s was to increase the stress level of the detained. Quite often the amount of time spent by interviewing detectives could easily have been fitted into one day.

Being isolated from family and friends is a psychological mechanism of attrition aimed at wearing down the fortitude of the individual. It can produce a true confession, but as experience here has shown it has also produced confessions from numerous people who had nothing to confess but did so anyway to escape the isolation. Prolonged detention and associated isolation is merely a means of legalising duress.

The PSNI have had more than enough time to question Chris Ward. He is now the recipient of police duress. Any information extracted under such circumstances should have no place in a court of law. His continued detention is an abuse of process.

Anthony McIntyre
Kevin McQuillan
Tommy Gorman
December 2005

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