Guest writer Alec McCrory with an account of his experiences at the lower levels of the North's British justice system.

More than two years ago we buried a dear friend and comrade, Peter Skeet Hamilton after his brief though doomed battle with a highly aggressive form of cancer. He had spent many years on the run in Dundalk, a town he loved as a second home. Skeet was well known by republicans the length and breadth of the island. His popularity was acknowledged by the hundreds of people who turned out on both sides of the border to see him off on his final journey. As the cortege left Dundalk his many friends, neighbours and comrades waited patiently in his beloved Ardoyne for the return of the prodigal son.

Peter’s funeral was a massive occasion attended by upwards to 1000 mourners. The small housing estate was congested as the funeral procession wound its way through the small district street by street. There were few tears for the man we were burying would have told us to dry our eyes and get on with it. That was his type, gregarious, witty, redoubtable and loyal to a fault. Skeet Hamilton truly was one in a million.

After the funeral we returned to the Crumlin Star for typical Irish knees up in honour of our friend and comrade. He was remembered in song and hilarious anecdotes told by childhood friends and former prisoners. Later in the evening I and some friends went to another local club close by. A lot of alcohol had been consumed by this stage but the mood was light hearted and comradely. Within a short time a fracas developed over the singing of songs and some edgy banter. This situation was quickly resolved and we left the premises.

Outside we were met by a large number of heavily clad policemen who were spoiling for a fight. They had blocked off the cul-de-sac preventing our exit. Before attempting to ascertain our identities a number of police moved quickly to seize one of our group. He was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed to the rear. The rest of us attempted to intercede at which point the police drew batons and CS gas canisters.

Several local people came out of their homes to observer the incident only to get caught up in the melee. Some were pushed to the ground and others sprayed with CS gas. Three friends and I were arrested and brought to Lisburn police station where we spent the night in the cells. We were charged the next morning and brought to Belfast Magistrate’s Court. All of us had sustained cuts and bruises but no charges were brought against the police officers responsible for our injuries. We, other the other hand, were charged with a range of public order offences including assault on police.

For the next two years we travelled to the court for remand hearings. Anywhere else in Britain or Ireland a case such as this would have been dealt with in half the time. One of the big issues for the Stormont administration today relates to the massive amount of public resources used up by the criminal justice system. Is it any wonder? For the judges, barristers and solicitors it is bottomless pit of fees and legal aid checks.

Finally, the trial began the week before Christmas. It was clear from the outset we were fighting an uphill struggle. When before a British court republicans face two problems: the innate respect the judges have for the police on the one hand and, a pronounced bias against all things republican, on the other. Believe me on this. I have been there.

The prosecution offered me a deal involving a binding over for one year which I declined. I knew the case against me was a weak one. As always the police evidence was extremely contradictory: police officers are easily put under pressure in the box by experienced defence advocates. One police officer in particular completely undermined the core of the case made against us i.e. that we were responsible for what happened by own actions. In the summing up the judge simply set aside this important piece of testimony describing the police offer as weak witness. How convenient!

With Christmas looming the trial was adjourned until after the festive holiday. Before this the charges against me were struck out and I was released from the court. However, the judge had cause to be irked. In good old republican fashion we refused to stand up whenever he entered and exited the courtroom; never advisable if one is looking for a sympathetic hearing. To save himself the embarrassment, as well as, to prevent this flagrant show of disrespect to the court, he dispensed with the formality of bring us into the dock. Poor man!

The court reconvened on the 4th of January to hear the remaining witnesses including two of the accused. It adjourned again until the 18th of this month for a judgement. On Tuesday my three friends were found guilty on all counts. The honourable judge accepted the weight of evidence and explained the major inconsistencies as something he would expect to find in an incident such as the one before him. Touché!

The men were found guilty and each received a ten month concurrent sentence suspended for 3 years.

Another good day’s work in the courts of British justice


  1. Alec tells it how is is warts and all the new beginning and justice system is nothing more than illusion that the now discredited quisling $inn £ein have tried to fob of onto the nationalist population,their participation on the more than useless and what seems dumb struck policing boards is an example of the depths that this party has sunk to, the farce around how the chief cuntsnotable and his senior officers have handled the illegal marches here since Christmas over the "Fleg" dispute and the lack of any serious questions from q$£ members and the rest on the policing board should have the people from all communities calling for their resignations, Alec and his mates are lucky that they werent banged up but we are most certainly heading back that way were just a dirty look in the direction of a cop will get a taig six months ,it sure looks like norn iorn is heading back to the land where time stood still somewhere between 1690 and 1969

  2. Another thing about Alecs post has me scratching my head, Alec mentions a "bit of a fracas" which was quickly sorted,yet when they left that club the cops were waiting en masse,my question is a cara Who called the cops in the first place? in the old days we sorted out our disputes amongst ourselves.whoever reached for the phone to ring those fuckers should be kicked up and down the Ardyone rd.

  3. Alec and two of his mates were in court, the first lad was given 15 years for possession of a knife,the second lad was given 25 years for the possession of a gun, Alec was give 15 years for the possession of 59p,the judge stated "Although Alec was not in possession of a gun or a knife,it is quite clear in my opinion that he was saving up for one or the other."

  4. Most if not all beer louts who use drink as an excuse for a row in a pub blame everyone else the next morning-its the barmans fault-its the other bar patrons fault-its the fault of the police-its the
    courts fault-its true here as its true the world over-its pathetic-if you cant enjoy a pint in peace you dont enjoy life-

  5. Marty:

    I was thinking the exact same thing myself, "the peelers were waiting en mass and blocked of the cul-de-sac.

    A phone call was made, that is without a doubt, or, The peelers knew there would be a knees up and decided, lets fuck these fenians up, lets show them who is the boss. Nothing has changed. In the old days, it was one on one, No Boot, just the old fashion way, Fists, and, shake hands afterwards, and I agree that whoever made that call should be dealt with.

  6. Michaelhenry,

    maybe the hunger strikers just didn't like the quality of the food.

  7. Michaelhenry:

    "Most if not all beer louts who use drink as an excuse for a row"

    The said incident was resolved before anyone left the club, "LOUTS"?, do you have any idea as to who were there at Skeets funeral, in The Star Club Drinking to Skeets honour and giving him a Proper Irish Republican Farewell?.
    Do you not get the message in Alecs Piece?. You are taking the Peelers word against good honest Republicans. The message is, The system is still corrupt, If your a taig, your lifted, and the peelers were out that night to cause agro, to goad republicans whom they knew were having a party to send Skeet on his way. So, in fact you are calling those republicans who were arrested, LIARS. how low are you going to stoop, Pull your head out of the bearded one's arse.

  8. Mickeybroy you tell that to your mates who drink in the toilets of Mc Guinness bar Belfast

  9. Marty; I was just thinking the same thing myself? Who called the cops?

    If Alec and his friends wandered not to far from the star then it could only have been one of two bars. The closest one to the star, virtually next door, I doubt anyone there would've called them.

    That leaves the one in the entry just down the street - a bar that used to be considered a republican one.

  10. Michealhenry,
    You have been thrown out of better places than bars???.
    I was charged with assault while on remand. The incident happened when I was leaving the dock after a remand hearing. Got tea and sympathy from the head cop - the sympathy dried up though when he realised I was a remand prisoner . I eventually got charged with serious assault another one that thanks to the GFA you have to try and explain away.

  11. Sounds a bit like the wild west to me. I'm getting visions reading this of a load of drunk men and women screaming about sell outs and touts and what side the decessed would have taken had he been alive. I envisage some bloke in a 30 year old box jacket/his sunday best, screaming "squeeky boot bastards" and offering said people outside for a good old gypsie score settler. sure aint that how gents should do, good honest smashing of lips, eyes and teeth. Perhaps if one has mastered the jab sufficantly the jaw can be dislocated quite easily other wise the heel of the boot may be used. winner buys the first round after the handshake and we all have a singsong back in doors :)

    Personally, I blame the youth. Sure in my day you could have left your front door open ;)

  12. Michael
    As marty has already alluded to, how do you apply your logic to the butchering of Robert McCartney and the cover up?


  13. Emmett, you've mailed your flag to a mast there alright.

  14. itsjustmacker....the message is, if you're a taig you're lifted...obviosly not according to the HET.

  15. Does anyone have figures between the number of loyalists jailed compared to republicans since the signing of the GFA?

    I've seen the reports that more loyalists are in front of the courts because of HET enquiries but locked up?

    I've said before. They (HET) should clean up their own back yard first. It would instill confidence (or start) in both sides of the oxymorons if nothing else. Or as Anthony stated several times. Draw a line under the sand for all murders prior 1998. If it wasn't for the conflict most of the people who spent years in Long Kesh/H-blocks wouldn't have ended up there.

    It may be a bitter sweet pill for lots of people to swallow..but one day soon some of the people who committed a political crime will have passed away and or are already dead. The money would be better spent in regenerating working class areas.

  16. Stephen:

    welcome back.

    "obviosly not according to the HET"

    And what does HET have to do with "So Called Ordinary Policing".

    Do you have a link for any figures Please , if it is as you say, Then they are going off figures during the conflict, which would still be untrue, but those ex SB men are to busy at HET sifting through old files which relate to suspected Republicans and certain members of SF, the sad thing about it all is, They took a very lucrative Redundancy payout, they were sick to the core at the Old RUC name being changed and couldn't hack it, and , in my opinion they should never have been rehired albeit through an agency run by there own, the hand of the "LOO" loyal Orange Order played its part. Facts are facts Stephen, now the Media is censored in reporting anything to do with flag protests, especially the BBC.

  17. Stephen; the HET enquiries have only led to the arrests of about 5-6 people surely? Haddock, sammy Agnew and the others charged with Tommy English, your man Laffin and one or two others?

  18. itsjustmacker...last proper figures I have seen were from December 2011...79 arrests under HET--77 Loyalist and 2 Republican. To date three convictions=3 Loyalists. From then until now I dont see too many more Republicans being arrested under HET but know of at least 5 more Loyalists.

  19. Stephen:

    Thanks for your reply, I don't know were you got your figures from, but I will not dispute them. You know my view on the HET, I do not agree with it. It is raking up old wounds, but, it cant investigate its own murders.

    For that reason, they should be scrapped.

  20. itsjustmackers--they are official figures easily obtainable by googling HET or the PRONI view too is to scrap the system--seemingly there was an undertaken given in 98 by Mowlam--verbally--that " old cases " would not be pursued. Of course that cannot be verified now. I am by no means a conspiracy theorist but the longer the process continues and the more lop sided it becomes then the more I would believe that the $hinners have cut some sort of deal along the way.

  21. Stephen,

    I think the Shinners might think they have cut a deal along the way: a top man's type of arrangement where leaders are protected and the devil can take the grassroots. But the current British government is not bound by agreements struck by previous governments as the reneging on the Pat Finucane inquiry showed. Nor will the Shinners care about the HET in the slightest - might even privately endorse it - if the HET delivers results in terms of convicting loyalists for the killings of Catholics. The Shinners can in turn wink to their grassroots that they are forcing the cops to do this.

  22. itsjustmackers..not a bad summing up..and of course you are spot on in assessment of seperate governments doing what they want...the whole Shinner thing smacks of the Animal Farm scenario...all animals are equal etc:

  23. Stephen:

    I would say you are on the right track re SF.

    I have download PRONI docs, had a friend go on the HET site, He can't see any information on arrests and charges of Anyone, he clicked on all links, did you click on a specific link on HET to get the info, 77 seems to me an awful lot of arrests, yet nothing in public domain re that many.

  24. Stephen,

    I think you just mixed myself and itsjustmacker up.

    But no better place to mix up your Ps and Qs than on TPQ!!

  25. michaelhenry,

    I have come across you on republican sites and on facebook. To be honest, you are no more an Irish Republican than the man on the moon. Your politics are unrecognisable as being anything approximating republican. The fact you are a member of Sinn Fein says a lot about the party.


    your conjurings are more amusing than truthful. The situation was nothing near as bad as you imagined: no craking of jaws or breaking of noses.

    We were never able to establish who made the phone call that evening. In the early days of our attempts to identify the caller we were told by solicitors that it was made by someone in the club: A 'community representative'. But we could not stand over this information as fact.

    The cops arrived in body suits dressed for a fight. They were sitting in close by ready to deal with any reports of trouble. At least a half dozen vehicles converged on the cul-de-sac within a few minutes blocking off our exit. The constables were not intent on giving us free passage.

    How would MH and Emmet explain the innocent bystanders being gassed? Most of the witnesses were either supporters or members of Sinn Fein. We attempted to subpenoa an elected representative to give evidence and he cried off saying he was inside the club when it all happened. The same person commented on the incident in the North Belfast News a few days later. Strange that, don't you think.


    I am not a fan of the HET and it is clear that loyalist are not fairing well under its scrunity. However, it is the first time that the criminal justice system has impacted loyalism in a disproporationate way. Through the war years the bais was towards republicans. On a similar charge a loyalist faired better than his republican counterpart. I am generalising, of course.

    The courts are a microcosm of society. It is riddled with class attitudes and snobery. In this sense there is a working class bais which is felt by all and sundry. A loyalist who has failed to pay for a TV licence will be dealt with in exactly the same manner as a catholic, obviously.

  26. Alec-

    " To be honest,you are no more an Irish Republican than the man on the moon "-

    If you say so-and in other words you see yourself as a super peacefull Republican from belfast-as none of the breakaway groups have ever killed a brit or cop in your city you would not want or expect anyone to think that you are a militant Republican supporter-can you-no one is any more-

  27. For Jesus' sake Alec would you ever leave Michael Henry alone.. Don't you know he's SF's IO?

    (Internet Officer)

  28. Alec:

    "We were never able to establish who made the phone call that evening. In the early days of our attempts to identify the caller we were told by solicitors that it was made by someone in the club: A 'community representative'. But we could not stand over this information as fact."

    Naturally a phone call was made, but was it made on that evening? , could this have been someone within the district making contact with a handler naming those who were at the funeral and then went to the star! , as for the mentioning of a community Rep, and the call coming from the club you's were in, it doe's not state if the call came from behind the bar, so if a community rep made the call then it was from his/her mobile, but that would be an obvious ploy by ruc/psni to drive divisions further . Its just a thought on my part because to my way of thinking about the situation.

  29. lets be honest here Alec yez were for sheets to the wind. I would guess the ruck started amongst one time friends who have become bitter opponents. I would also guess somewhere along the line someone shouted "you, sure you never had any balls anyway" Perhaps someone accused another gent of being an agent of the state, tossing his pool cue aside screaming "Touts" and on leaving I expact someone slammed the metal cage gate and voiced "stick yer bar up yer arse we'll not be back" - as ya do like in such circumstances - at which point the state forces thought well, well, well just what do we have here the bhoys.

    And so it was, a legendary brawl was staged destined to enter the folk lore of ardoyne boozes forever more. The like of which will never be seen again ;) lol

  30. MH;

    'If you say so-and in other words you see yourself as a super peacefull Republican from belfast-as none of the breakaway groups have ever killed a brit or cop in your city you would not want or expect anyone to think that you are a militant Republican supporter-can you-no one is any more-'


    Why is it that I've always to read everything you write at least twice before I can begin to sort of thread the gist together?

    I'm certain it's not me as I don't have this problem with other posters.

  31. Emmet,

    I think you have it down to a tee.

  32. Book-worm-I-don't-understand-why-MichaelH-uses '-' between-almost-every-word.

    You are a better woman than I am a man if you only have to read his post's twice to get the jist. Sometimes I never understand.

  33. So Michael Henry is an elected Sinn Féin councillor. Sinn Féin has renounced violence and it now supports a British police force in the North. However, for some strange reason, Michael thinks he is making a kick-ass argument every time he goads dissident republican militants for not having killed many British cops and squaddies.

    Am I missing something here?

  34. Alfie / Frankie;

    Sometimes-it's-better-not-to-think- about- Micky H-too-much-he - only-makes-sense-in-the-parallel -universe-that-is-his-head- oh---and -his -local-cumann.

  35. Alfie-

    " Sinn Féin has renounced violence "

    Sinn Fein never took part in any violence-

    Did not know that i was making a Kick-ass argument-did it hurt-

  36. Alfie Mickeybroy goading dissidents !are you missing something? yes a cara you are your about 18 months behind on this issue.

  37. Michaelhenry,

    but current SF leaders directed the political violence. Alfie is right and you merely try to evade his point with weak word play. Adams said in 1986 'if at any time Sinn Fein disown armed struggle it won't have me as a member.'

    Which means people in Sinn Fein could legitimately interpret his words as meaning that the party must not push non-violent methods if those methods were to lead to an end of the armed struggle.

  38. I have just returned from court where I was handed down a £500 fine for failing to account for my movements under section 21. The judge was the most obnoxious person I have had the displeasure of being before ever.. At one point in the proceeding my barrister complained that he was not a nine-year-old boy to be chastised. I was warned going into the court of this judges support of the police.

    The leglislation does not define movements as in moving from A to B. On this particular ocassion the cops had been following me for two miles before pulling me in. I told them I was going to the swim centre to collect my daughter. My legal representative argued this to be sufficent under the act and the cops were caught out telling a few porkies. All to no avail.

    The judge ruled that 'movements' meant a starting point and a destination, which he is not entitled to do. Suffice to say, I am appealing the conviction on this basis.

    It is wrong for something like this to be determined by personal prejudice or whimiscal behaviour on the part of a judge. Where the law is not clearly defined it should not be left to a low court judge to fill in the gaps. Whenever he heard I had been stopped over 40 times my fate was sealed.

  39. Alec:

    If they did not ask you were you were coming from, and , only ask you were you were going, which you told them, you have every right to appeal, and you should win your case, providing you do not end up with the same judge. Good luck.

  40. They knew my movements because they had followed me for two mile. When they stopped me I had my young daughter in the back of the car. I explained I was on my way to collect my other daughter at the Whiterock Lesiure Centre. A cop car followed me right to the front doors.

    This is far less information than I have provided on many other ocassions. And this is where the problem lies. The legislation does not define movements as going from one place to another place.

    How many journeys do not have a specific destination? Someone out for a drive may not be going anywhere in particular. Are we to make up a story simply to satisfy a copper's need for information?

    Because the laws on stop and search are non specific they are open to individual interpretation and abuse. The letter of the law should mean pricisely that.

  41. MichaelHenry
    You must know that anything you say about militant Republicanism cannot be taken seriously, even amongst your own.
    Notches of any description are definitely not your thing.

  42. Alec,
    I must be either a stereotypical thick mick or I'm missing something you said. You get followed by the Gestapo (they knew your starting point). You told them where you were going (they knew your destination). Then you get hauled into court and fined 500 green backs because you were collecting your daughter at a swimming centre..!!!

    What would happen if you went to the waterworks and started picking dasies or caught feeding the swans?

    Alec, I'm not poking fun at you (or tying)..I'm left speechless sometimes reading the crap some of the TPQ-ers have to put up with on daily basis. So much for a new beginning.

  43. Michael-Henry..
    What Alfie said was SF renounced violence..and thats exactly what they done last paragraph Michael reads like this...

    A ceasefire was enacted in 1997, and the next year the main political parties of Northern Ireland, including the I.R.A’s political wing Sinn Fein, renounced violence in the U.S.-brokered Good Friday Accord.

    Sinn Féin formally renounces violence

    Sinn Fein never took part in any violence-

    Michael, who are you trying to convince? SF are at the very least guilty by association. They had it with in the power (or senior members had) to stop punishment beatings. They didn't for a mutitude of reasons. Trying to make out SF are lilly white and purer than the driven snow is nothing short of fantasy. That doesn't mean every party member is/was guilty of turning a blind eye to punishment beatings but SF could have done a lot more in preventing them (after all they say prevention is better than a cure)..

    A small piece of advice Michael, the rose coloured glasses you wear, take them off or at least wipe them more often than you do at present.

  44. Frankie,

    I will put it to you this way. If you leave the house and the police spot you driving in any direction with no particular destination in mind then how can you answer certain question? Where do you pick up the story line to explain your movements? Do you then have to fill in all the gaps between leaving point A at some time and being stopped with no destination in mind?

  45. When this stop took place I had my three-year-old in the car. The police had followed me far enough to establish there was nothing unusal or suspicious about my movements.

    If I am the target of the stop then why have my young sons and daughters been questioned and searched? On Christmas Day I was stopped with my twenty-two year old daughter whilst going for a packet of cigarettes. A policewoman was sent for to search her on the sidewalk.

    The Justice and Security Act should not apply to my family simply because the are present during a stop. This is discrmination and a breech of their rights.

    Last year CAJ imformed me there was no child protection written in to the legislation which I find scandalous in the exterme.

  46. Marty,

    "Mickeybroy goading dissidents !are you missing something? yes a cara you are your about 18 months behind on this issue."

    Well, not exactly. I first asked him about it over two years ago. However, I am amazed that he is still using this argument since it is so obviously daft.

  47. Where is Michael Henry?

    I don't think I've seen him online since... Well, since Wullie Frazer got lifted.

    Hmmm. The plot 'thick'ens.

    MH if you're out there come and prove that you're not Wullie on the wind up.

  48. Alfie my time line memory may be wandering a tad a cara but that was still my point I recall the debate on this subject with Mickybroy which if your memory serves you correct there was more than yourself debated this with our quisling $inn £einer ad nauseum, flogging a dead horse or a necrophilia would be productive.

  49. AM-

    " Adams said in 86 "

    There was a war being fought in 86-no Irish Republican is fighting a war in 2013-

    Belfast Bookworm-

    I am still about-

    [thanks for the lend of the laptop before the court case officer ]

  50. Michaelhenry,

    and how does that recover the ground lost in your response to Alfie?

  51. Mickeybroy your crony Franciebroy Molloy the quisling $inn £ein ball boy in the upcoming mid Ulster election has publicly stated that" he would be happy to administer British rule here"does that not say to you that the PRM have not only lost the war but in their surrender terms they have now taken" the queens shilling"

  52. Alec a cara hope your appeal against that disgusting and blatant decision goes in your favour, now when we talk about these very efficient cops who uphold the law to the letter,I have been left wondering,How many of those "fleg" protesters who waved their "flegs "from fishing poles had the licences checked, because a cara it is an offence to carry a fishing rod without a rod licence?

  53. michaelhenry

    " Adams said in 86 "

    There was a war being fought in 86-no Irish Republican is fighting a war in 2013-

    Am I reading this correctly, if Adams stated the above in 86 and he doesn't have a crystal ball, It proves what the end result was going to be!.

    The big fisherman Mc Guinness also said, "Don't go comrades, I will lead you to the republic! , good quote that, he failed to mention which republic and which country.

  54. MH: 'thanks for the lend of the laptop before the court case officer'

    Good to see you've still your sense of humour.

    I know you probably think that on here and other sites you get a hard time from dissenting voices. Dissident-baiting you might call it & I think there's a part of you that enjoys it. I'd say you're probably convinced that it's
    because you're a shinner and because people don't agree with the SF proverbial strategy.

    It's not though. If your cumann mates were honest they'd tell you this.

    I have to say you're the least republican person I know. You come across totally insensitive to current republican issues and you've no grasp whatsoever on politics.

    Your days are numbered with the party my friend. We will welcome you on board when that day comes.

  55. BB,

    Michaelhenry could stay forever in the party given the ease with which he buys the line. His problem will lie in the arguments he makes which sound off the wall. But he has persevered long enough for the rest of us to like him and I guess by this stage he is part of the furniture at the Quill.

  56. Mickeybroy is the quintessential quisling $inn £einer he comes from a revolutionary republican background and like the Ernie O Malley saying "its easy to lie on another mans wounds" which so many of the present day cadre are so willing to do, the leadership has lead them by the nose (must have been the smell of the subsidised restaurant in Stormont)and the illusion of power and privilege,but as the saying goes"the fools the fools the fools they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves Ireland unfree shall never be at peace, and sad to say one day Mickybroy and his cronies will realise just how true that is .

  57. Anthony,

    'I guess by this stage he is part of the furniture at the Quill.'

    'Arguments with furniture are rarely productive' Kehlog Albran

  58. Robert,

    that is also true.

  59. Robert you can burn furniture shit on the other hand!

  60. Belfast Bookworm-

    " Your days are numbered with the party "

    Maybe-Maybe not-but what-ever i would remain a Sinn Fein supporter-no one could take that away from me-we all have our days/years numbered with life-


    I have been reading up on Kehlog Albran since i read your comment-

    " Do you enjoy reading beautiful crap like this "


    " Part of the furniture at the Quill "-

    Or to be more specific- The drink Cabinet-

  61. Anthony; I agree, i think he can sometimes be likeable.

    Every village needs their idiot I suppose!!

  62. MichaelHenry,

    " Part of the furniture at the Quill "-

    Or to be more specific- The drink Cabinet-

    That being the case total abstinence becomes a very attractive proposition.