Law Repeatedly Distorted

Martin Galvin (MG) interviews solicitor Niall Murphy (NM) via telephone from Belfast about Marian Price's recent court cases. The interview was conducted for  Radio Free √Čireann , WBAI 99.5 Pacifica Radio New York City on 24 August 2013.
MG: We're now going to go to Niall Murphy, he's one of the solicitors (or lawyers) working on the case of Marian Price. Niall, welcome to Radio Free √Čireann.

NM: Hello, Martin. How're you doing?

MG: Doing the best. Niall is one of the solicitors who works in the firm of Kevin Winters.

You've heard (of) other members of that firm - Peter Corrigan, Paul Pierce and others. They've worked on famous cases like that of Gerry McGeough, like that of Sean Hoey like other famous cases involving Republican prisoners, involving people who are up before British courts.

Niall, last week, Marian Price – her case is very familiar to WBAI Radio Free √Čireann listeners - she was not brought to court during the time that she was interned by licence, that was secret evidence and she was imprisoned for more than two years on her licence without knowing the reasons why - what happened to her last week in a Belfast courtroom?

NM: You've touched upon the context of it there, Martin, and I think it's important for your listeners just to fully appreciate what the background circumstances are.

Marian was, as you correctly said, interned for over two years on the premise that the Secretary of State was revoking a licence.

Now this was a licence which could never be found - the actual physical, paper document was lost.

And the Secretary of State brought in specialist Treasury Counsel from London to argue the point in a closed material proceeding - in a closed court – a secret court. And Marian was not fit to attend – was not even entitled to attend at that hearing which her very liberty depended upon.

And applications for bail to release her from custody - they were always vigourously opposed by the Secretary of State and by the police - on the basis that they asserted that she was being pro-actively targeted for murder by Loyalist paramilitaries - that they had intelligence that Marian was to be assassinated.

MG: Alright. So in other words she was released from that charge years ago that we talked about when she began in gaol in England, released from Armagh Prison and was out for many years. Then all of a sudden they revoke her licence saying she could be gaoled based on new information and then she's not allowed to be released and there's talk about her being a target for assassination. What happened last week?

NM: Last week she had two cases. One was a case where she was alleged to have held a piece of paper at an Easter Commemoration in Doire.

The process for that was that she had to physically attend for the case to be returned to Belfast crime court. And the circumstances with regards to her health is that the state's own doctors have concluded that she wasn't fit to participate in the proceedings because of her deteriorating mental health.

However, she did attempt to attend. She did physically appear and the psychiatrists, on behalf of the state - independent psychiatrists – said that if would benefit her future participation in proceedings if the court would grant an anonymity application because her appearance has changed in the two years that she's been in custody.

This application for anonymity was vigorously opposed by the state, by the prosecution, and it was ultimately refused.

And when Marian went home that day she just deteriorated - lapsed back to the worst days of her solitary confinement - and was unable to get out of her bed.

So when a minor charge of a white line picket came up on the Monday she was unable to attend. And this is the same state who said that she could not even be released because she was about to be murdered by Loyalists but yet they opposed an application that would have retained her anonymity.

So you had a complete, egregious dichotomy on behalf of the state whereby they effectively wanted publication of her current appearance publicised all over the media and that would have further brought her to the attention of Loyalist paramilitaries.

They applied, in her absence, for a conviction and the magistrate (garbled) at the lower court convicted her of a white line picket that many thousands of Irish Republicans attend every year.

We were able to get back into court … that was on Monday. On Tuesday we made an Article 157-A application to the magistrate's court order and we were able to have a fresh medical in court and convince the judge that it was preposterous to have convicted her and the conviction was set aside.

But there was, as a matter of fact, the state opposed our application to adjourn on the basis she was further unfit to attend, and successfully applied for a conviction in her absence in circumstances where they remanded her – interned her for two years – and the … (indecipherable) … was a three year old charge.

MG: Alright. Just a couple of quick points: an application for anonymity .... that's something so that her photograph can't be published so that people would see what she looks like including those who might want to take action against her. Is that correct?

NM: Yes.

MG: So she made an application for anonymity on the charge where she held held up a piece of paper at a Doire Easter Republican commemoration. I think I was in the audience on that day and saw her.

And then as a result of that she had a physical health set-back, brought up on a minor charge the following week and she was too ill to attend and the court tried to convict her anyway. Is that it?

NM: That's precisely what happened. The court actually did convict her and we had to bring emergency proceedings to have the conviction set aside.

MG: Now she did over two years in gaol when she was interned by licence.

Would any of that time count for her on that summary offence just of attending what's called a white line picket where you stand in the middle of the road and you hold up signs saying “support Republican prisoners” or something of that nature?

NM: On the white line picket charge I would be shocked even if a Belfast magistrate would impose a sentence with custody. It's a minor charge and one would expect that a fine would be imposed.

However, I would err on the side of caution that any time spent on remand on the revocation of licence should apply to any future sentence for any future conviction if that circumstance pre-dated the internment.

MG: So you, in other words, with the Diplock courts and the way they've treated Marian in the past, you're not a hundred percent sure of how they would regard a new conviction even for the most minor of offences in terms of putting her back in gaol under her licence.

NM: The problem is nobody is sure because the law has been distorted and repeatedly, I hesitate to say “broken”, but repeatedly there have been new precedents applied in this circumstance.

What has happened to Marian has never happened to anybody else.

So every time she steps into a court under the circumstances they currently present to her in the context of the revocation of a licence that could never be found it's breaking new ground every time. So whereas I would hope and expect the legal analysis would be that she should avail to time previously spent I couldn't put the kettle on for any court to uphold natural justice.

MG: Niall Murphy of the firm Kevin R. Winters talking about the case of Marian Price.

Niall, we had planned to interview you on the situation at Loughgall - some of the documents with the relatives of those who were killed at Loughgall - they're concerned that people were killed and summarily executed even after they were prisoners...some other issues that you're working on. However, we've spent so much time on Marian's case that we're going to have to hold that for a future day but we hope you come back again as those cases develop and talk about them.

NM: No problem, Martin.

MG: We were talking (to) again Niall Murphy, member of the firm Kevin R. Winters ...works with people like Peter Corrigan, like Paul Pierce and others. They fought famous cases like Gerry McGeough and so many others and now fighting for Marian Price who was not allowed, because of health reasons, to go to a courtroom last week and were able to vacate her conviction.

3 comments:

  1. Martin,

    good interview. I think it would be worthwhile RFE interviewing Kevin Winters given what Alec said in a comment on an earlier piece. These things are very ominous and are being overlooked by former republicans who prefer office to opposition.

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  2. Niall stated this;

    " I couldn't put the kettle on for any court to uphold natural justice."

    That's straight to the point, and , when Solicitors are up against such injustices it's hard for themselves and clients to get anything which remotely feels like justice is being applied. I agree with Anthony , Kevin Winters should also be interviewed. The more these secret evidence cases are out in the public domain, the more voices of dissent will be heard world wide.

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  3. Even more troubling, is the fact that these solicitors themselves appear at times to be in serious danger.
    Solicitors have been murdered by agents of the state.
    Some have been slandered on evidence which is at best precarious and at worst false.
    Solitictors involved in confronting state injustice appear to walk a daily tightrope in more ways than one.

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