Disorder in the Court
A year after charges were first preferred in the case, Marian Price along with three Derry men were due a Preliminary Enquiry. For the most part these are legal formalities whereby a judge assesses if there is a prima facie case against the accused and the onus is on the prosecution to present some evidence that will persuade the judge to allow the case to go to trial. Otherwise, the court has the option of dismissal.
Such is Marian Price’s psychological state that she was unable to attend yesterday’s hearing or to even appear by video link. Her solicitor explained that she was suffering from severe depression. It is an outcome of the regime of isolation she has endured from her arrest a year ago. Along with the others who walked free yesterday she had been charged with taking part in a commemoration on April 25th last year. The British police, who arrested the four, accused each of lending support to an IRA that the police do not approve of.
The judge on the bench showed his mettle by refusing to allow his court to function as a mere rubber stamp for the Public Prosecution Service. It nonchalantly turned up at court without having submitted the necessary papers that would have allowed the judge to consider the merits of its case. It tried one of the oldest tricks in the dictionary of delay and claimed that the papers were almost ready. Judge McElholm was having none of it. He stated, quite reasonably, that more complicated cases involving forensic evidence had come before the courts in quicker time. Unlike many who sat on the bench before him he simply refused to engage in interminable delays. While drawing attention to his lack of powers he nevertheless argued that were he not to ‘use what teeth I have, I may as well sit back and allow the prosecution to dictate the pace.’ Which is exactly what he is supposed to do only he has declined to read the script handed down to him by British powers.
Not often that we hear of judges, with their tendency towards conservatism, standing up to orthodoxy. But there we have it. For how long the bench shall have him is something else. Smoke signals from the PPS camp suggest a smouldering resentment that Marian has not yet paid the Price.