And the Merry-go-round Keeps Turning

Guest writer Alec McCrory with a piece on the growing threat to civil liberties and human rights posed by British police in the North.

Internment and human rights abuses within the British criminal justice system were the focus of two meetings at the weekend, one in Belfast, the other in Dublin. It would appear from those attending that these issues are beginning to reach a new audience, and not a moment too soon. Solicitors, NGOs, politicians and activists exchanged information and views on a variety of subjects. Miscarriages of justice, secret evidence gathering, revocation of licence, internment by remand, state harassment of legal representatives, strip searching, were all discussed in the context of human rights.

These issues have been hidden from the general public for too long. Media censorship ensures that people are ignorant of the facts therefore shielding the political and judicial institutions from scrutiny. At the Dublin meeting Clare Daly (TD) spoke of the lack of media reporting in the south where people believe the situation in the north to be normal, expect for some minor 'dissident' threat. There is more public awareness of the goings on at Guantanamo Bay than there is of similar circumstance only "one hundred miles up the road". God forbid, these abuses should be highlighted and upset a blissfully ignorant populace.

For the legal profession in the six-counties there is little reason for optimism. Joe McVeigh, a senior human rights lawyer speaking at the Belfast meeting, expressed serious concerns for the safety of his fellow practitioners. In particular, he referred to the disgraceful treatment of two colleagues who were monitored by the police and threatened with arrest for simply doing their job to the best of their ability. Peter Corrigan, who represents the 'Craigavon Two', uncovered an important witness sending shockwaves through the Public Prosecutor's Office and the PSNI.

This new evidence challenged the core the state's case against Brendan McConnville and John Paul Wotton. Shockingly, the witness was arrested and held at Dungannon police station for three days during which time he was pressurized to withdraw his statement. Referring to the murder of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, McVeigh invoked the very real dangers that now facing solicitors here. Like the ghost of Christmas past, he identifies a growing hostility within the state apparatus for public defenders who represent the new breed of 'dissident republican terrorists'.

To hear a respected professional speak in this manner shocked many in the audience. For clearly, this could not be easily passed of as 'dissident' propaganda from the usual suspects. After listening to him one was left in no doubt that dark forces are working within the system to subvert the course of justice. That solicitors are once again fearing for their lives is an alarming development for both them and their families. McVeigh called for support for the legal profession in these difficult times.

Whenever the political system is faced with a challenge from the outside, whether real or perceived, it has the propensity to bend the rules in order to protect itself. Once the decision to do this has been taken and the normal checks and balances are dispensed with then collective and individual rights become the first causalities. In this situation the state will identify a wide range of threats and act accordingly. As the list of targets expands a greater number of citizens are swept into the net. At this point, we enter into a vicious cycle of state repression and the crushing of political dissidence.

This is precisely the situation we face today. Once again the criminal justice system is a clearing house for political opponents. The 'old conveyor belt' has been honed and perfected for maximum efficiency. The British state now has additional legal weapons at its disposal - all of them brought in under the cover of a farcical political process - to use against its malcontents; RIPA orders, secret evidence and internment are the new tools of repression.

Marion Price, Gerry McGeough, Martin Corey, Brian Shivers, Colin Duffy, Michael Campbell, Liam Campbell, Stephen Murney, DD McLaughlin, Ta McWillams, Brendan McConnville, John Paul Wotton, all are victims of state persecution and abuse. Covert intelligence gathered by MI5 is being used to imprison 'suspects' for long periods; whether this tactic will yield convictions has yet to be tested in a tribunal of fact. However, the track record of the Diplock courts suggests it will be more than sufficient for the job.

Based on the trends of the previous five years the jail population shall continue to rise. The erosion of basic legal safe guards and of due process shall create more miscarriages of justice. In October the British justice system will be put to the test once more with the appeal of McConnville and Wotton. Legal representatives of the two men believe this to be the worst case of miscarriage to date. A campaign for the 'Craigavon Two' has penetrated the cloak of censorship surrounding the case, but I for one shall not be holding my breathe awaiting a successful outcome. The fate of these two Irishmen rests in the hands of a non jury court similar to the one that convicted them the first instance. Hopefully, their nightmare shall be ended soon.


  1. Alec,

    as always, a thoughtful piece which shows the need for dissenting voices.

  2. A post of immense significance Alec a cara and it highlights the slow but sure awakening from a overlong slumber by many of the population here ,the greatest excess of human rights abuse all being carried out here while the pro gurus spin the "peace process "as a shinning example of peace and reconciliation to anyone foolish enough to believe them , mind you when the puppets like quisling $inn £eind are at hand to support this farce it makes the big lie all the more easy to sell, internment and imprisonment without trial are now becoming the norm here again ,and in quisling $inn £einds case it really is fiddling while Rome burns. thankfully it seems that people from both communities and from all walks are now beginning to speak out against these injustices and hopefully those who put themselves up for public office will follow Clare Daly,s TD example and do more than speak out .we must not let this slide continue ,censorship ,state abuse no due process are not or should not be part of any modern democratic society .

  3. From Davy Carlin


    good article, and I am sure it will enlighten more people of these important issues that the mainstream media do not carry.

    With so much going on, it is important that people who are not directly involved at the coal face of such issues can read such articles and return some of their focus and solidarity to such essential issues.

    We cannot go back to the days when solicitors and such human rights lawyers and activists fear for their own their families and others safety and lives, for standing up for the rights of political prisoners and dissenting voices.

    The continuing erosion of such rights and seeking to put fear and intimidation into those who are providing support for others - cannot be allowed to happen - it must not happen.

    And while I agree that more people’s attention needs to be re-focused on these issues to highlight the states growing repression, and to lend solidarity to those who provide support for those being repressed – others should seek to bring these issues to a wider audience, within the media, their political organisations, networks, blogs etc.

    And, in a differing way and in regard to this continuing erosion - the words of Pastor Niemoller comes to mind.

    And so, these issues need to evermore be highlighted.

  4. Great piece Alec highlighting the need for a more pro-active community-based response to these issues, issues that may eventually affect us all in the not-to-distant future

  5. Alec:

    Great Piece.

    I was wondering if members of the Press were invited to either of those two debates?.

    Has this piece been forwarded to any newspapers for publication?.

    If it were published , "Thats if the Edior(s) allowed it, More would get to know about it.

    As Ive stated in the past, Those who fail to turn up for protest demonstrations do not consider an important issue as to why these protests are taking place, my message to them is, "YOU COULD BE NEXT TO BE LIFTED UNDER SECRET EVIDENCE" , Were british MI5 tells a diplock judge a load of crap and its believed, BANG , your locked up with no say in any off it, and, your solicitor gets told nothing either, This corrupt British system needs to be highlighted throughout the world and stopped. Post it to Hass!

  6. itsjustmacker,

    there were two reporters from the south at the Conway Mill and they could be seen scribbling furiously as Joe McVeigh was talking. His contribution had people sitting on the edge of their seats and many were genuinely shocked by his claims. A recording of the event would have reached a wider audience. Pity.

    Yes, it is absolutely shocking to hear that solicitors are concerned about sinister goings on within the dark world of state security. Peter Corrigan believes that both he and his junior partner were being closely monitored by the security services, physically and electronically. The arrest and detention of the witness was a blatant attempt by the state to obstruct the course of justice. In Britain this would caused public uproar, and rightly so.

    McVeigh claims belong on the front page of every newspaper.

  7. Sorry about all these links, I knew I had them, But took me a while to find them on a cd,.

    Government plans to extend the use of secret hearings in courts are not compatible with the Human Rights Act, the equalities watchdog has said.

    Plans to extend the use of secret evidence “are a departure from this country's traditions of open justice and fairness”, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said.

    Watchdog warns over secret hearings

    Seems the British Cabinet has the last say.

  8. Itsjustmackers good stuff a cara and if you search out Brian Kerr,s address to the law society on this subject you will be blown away by his comments ,Brian Kerr now baron of Tonaghmore PC ajustice of the supreme court and a former Lord Chief Justice delivered a damming indictment of this abuse of due process, I asked Anthony to post it at the time and passed it on to Alec but neither responded to this mans speech which in my opinion coming from his background was probably the highest profile condemnation of this abuse of power by is out there in the public domain and very much worth listening to the really good stuff is about twenty mins in.I recommend it to anyone interested in this issue .

  9. itsjustmacker,

    The problem here is that the British simply derogate from European conventions on Human Rights whenever it suits them. Martin Corey's incarceration, to name but one case, would not stand up in the European court but it takes so long to get there.

    Make no mistake about it, the use of secret and covert evidence shall lead to a spike in the prison population over the next few years. The legal bar has been lowered to such an extent that it is now possible to take a political activist of the street for the most flimsy reasons, holding him/her on remand for two years. Stephen Murney being the perfect example.

    The fact is we have fewer protections now than ever before. In classic Kitsonian style, the criminal justice system has been honed to be the cutting edge of the state's repressive arm. MI5, NSA, RIPA, Internment, anti-terrorism laws, secret evidence, covert intelligence, all of the pose a serious threat to civil liberties.

  10. Marty,

    you did send that to me and I intended to listen to it but once it went into the black hole I forgot all about it. Repost the link

  11. Download any document from the link below.



    I agree , We are now at a cross roads were we will not be able to speak to anyone for fear of being arrested for collaborating with a so called dissident, "Anti Treaty" , If we all took the stance and said to ourselves, They can't lift us all , although stating that you did not know that persons political view wont wash with the RUC/PSNI/MI5 and the secret evidence which is like a "Thor's Hammer" to the British and the norn iron office, everything must be made available worldwide , otherwise the British will continue to bring in newer and more Draconian Laws which benefits themselves to suppress Irish Nationalists to there knees. That must never happen.

  12. I have bookmarked the link.

    I was with Kevin Winters today and we chatted about some of the stuff Joe McVeigh had said at the Conway Mill meeting. He (Kevin) has just returned from the US having briefed some congressmen on the targeting of his colleague, Peter Corrigan. He referred to a cabal withing the policing/security structures that are attempting to destroy Peter for the sin of representing 'terrorists'.

    Peter was involved in the Sean Hoey case, he defended Colin Duffy, and, presently, he is doing sterling work on behalf of the Craigavon Two. For this he has earned the malevolence of the darker elements at the heart of the security services. That Winters saw fit to travel to the US to brief senior politicians is an indication of how seriously this is being treated by the legal profession.

  13. That's heartening news Alec.

    Peter is a stalwart as is Kevin and others for their great work against the tyrant draconian British laws, assisted by SF in the Carsonite house called Stormont.

  14. That Brian Kerr lecture was to the Belfast law society at was the Mac Dermot Lecture 2013 I have sent the link to Anthony to post up.

  15. It is reported today that legal representatives of Brendan McConnville and John Paul Wotton have said in court that a new witness in the case has been "nobbled by the prosecution or police". A relative of the state's key witness, M, has described him as a "compulsive lair". This witness was arrested by the police and held for two days in an attempt to pressurize him into withdrawing his statement. The defense barrister claims he could have been called at the original trial when the police were aware of his existence.

    This report is carried by UTV but I don't know how to post the link.

  16. Once again Alec highlights the ongoing abuses in this British prison. Fair play to him for his strong activism and he deserves full credit for his help, support & solidarity for POWs' in this day as it's not popular to speak about POWs' when the enemies of the Irish Republic delude most citizens that they are all free!

  17. I want to make a correction in my last post. It was the prosecution that questioned why the new witness was not available at the original trial. The state is arguing that there is an element of coercion to the new witness coming forward. Indeed, at one time, the police alleged that a gunman was present while the defense solicitors were interviewing this man: this ridiculous allegation has since been withdrawn in favor of an inference of coercion.

  18. Martin Corey has been put back for a week after three years of unjust imprisonment.

    The 63 year old was released already by the courts on the grounds that his human rights had been infringed. He got as far as the reception where he was informed that the British SOS had overruled the court's decision. Martin was hastily returned to his cell. A cruel act.

    Postponing the decision on his release for another week is inexcusable and punishing.

  19. Martin was released by the courts sometime ago incase people are confused.

  20. I received this link via facebook.