Court of appeal continues to erode fundamental human rights protections

A statement from Justice Watch Ireland on the ruling by a British Appeal Court in the case of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, known as the Craigavon 2.

The decision to dismiss the case appeal of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton on Thursday 29/05/2014 by the Court of Appeal judges, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Coughlin in Belfast High court, was absolutely dumfounding. The victims of this ongoing miscarriage of justice; the two men, their, families, supporters and legal teams were clearly shocked and speechless at the outcome.

It is without doubt that the above mentioned will be most profoundly affected by this extremely bizarre and flawed legal decision, however until this case is overturned it may have profound impact on any citizen that is unfortunate enough go through this dubious legal practice. The danger presented by the outcome of this case by the highest court in the six counties jurisdiction cannot be overstated, it may set in place dangerous precedent that will erode fundament human rights protections that have evolved over centuries. That said, due to the discretion afforded to judges through the British legal system, it is not expected that this erosion of human rights protections will affect the general population. It is much more likely that it will used in a similar way to that of the iniquitous use of the Caste system which is prevalent in India, brought about in that country by British colonialists in the nineteenth century. That is, a system that will be used against subjects that in the states opinion which are less worthy of equality, these individuals will be exposed to the legal system that is inherently apathetic, an inadequate police investigation, conducted by a discriminatory police service, limited access to legal representation, no access to a jury, alongside corrupt, indifferent, condescending judiciary, backed up by brutal prison service, all working under a political system that lacks any democratic credentials. This is now the reality that any Irish citizen may face just like Brendan McCoville and John Paul Wooton have encountered recently, if this case decision is not reversed, the next victim of this procedure may easily be you.

Justice Watch Ireland (JWI) understand that the six counties is one of the only western jurisdictions that actively use draconian criminal legislation against individuals or groups that dare question the authority, the integrity, or political corruption by judiciary and its apparatus. For that reason JWI will not publically do this, with regards to the case of McConville and Wooton. JWI will provide a brief synopsis of the case below and encourage all citizens to read the court transcripts of the case and decide for themselves why two Irish Republicans continue to be interned in Her Majesty’s Prison Magaberry due to a decision concocted by three British appointed Judges in a British court.

On the 9th March 2009 Police Constable Stephen Carroll was shot and killed while responding to an emergency 999 call in the Craigavon area. The following day police arrived at the home of Brendan McConville, a local republican, and placed him under arrest. Later that morning, John Paul Wootton, another republican from the area, was arrested in the Craigavon area and had his vehicle seized.

Both men were taken to County Antrim for interrogation where they, along with a number of other individuals, were detained while the vehicle owned by John Paul Wootton was taken to Maydown Barracks in County Derry for examination. Some days later police recovered the weapon used in the shooting from the rear garden of a house in the Pinebank housing estate in Craigavon. Around the same time a brown jacket with traces of DNA from Brendan McConville amongst others, and minute residue which was claimed might have come from a firearm but possibly something else, was taken from the boot of the vehicle owned by John Paul Wootton.

Based on this finding, and under intense pressure to get results, PSNI focused their attentions on these two men and set about constructing a case against them. The reason the police were under so much pressure was that Constable Carroll was the first police officer to be killed since the Good Friday Agreement, however a fact that is probably much more important and that has still not been highlighted or investigated, is that there have been allegations made, backed up with evidence, that a covert British state agent may have been involved in the killing, in effect indirectly implicating the British state and its military agencies in this atrocity. Adding to the pressure; was the fact that this shooting took place within days of an attack on Masssereen Army Barracks where two British soldiers were killed in similar circumstances.

It later transpired that the car owned by John Paul Wootton had been subject to covert surveillance at the time of the attack by means of a tracking device which had been hidden either in or on the vehicle by the British Military. This device provided data on the movement of the vehicle around the time of the shooting. It would later come to light that data from this device was wiped while the device was still in the possession of the Army. No one could explain why this had happened. The remainder of the data was used to construct a circumstantial yet arguably weak case against the two men.

Eleven months after the shooting a local man contacted the police in the middle of the night on Valentines night and, under the influence of alcohol, claimed to have seen Brendan McConville close to the area from which the shooting occurred on the night of the shooting. It should be borne in mind that in the eleven months from the shooting to this man’s statement, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton had been charged with the shooting and their identities were widely broadcast throughout the media.

This man, known only to the court as Witness M, lied continuously under oath while giving evidence. For example M was adamant that he had no problems with his eyesight and when asked if he had been prescribed glasses he claimed that he did occasionally wear glasses, but only as a fashion item. It was only on day two of his testimony, when confronted with evidence acquired by Brendan McConville’s legal team from an optician in Lurgan where he had previously underwent an eyesight examination, that he conceded that he had been prescribed glasses but this time claimed that they were just for reading. Evidence later given in court would show that in fact Witness M suffered from both astigmatism and short sightedness and could only identify facial features up to half the distance at which he claimed to identify Brendan McConville. At the conclusion of the case a single notorious authoritarian British judge without a jury, relying heavily on circumstance and inference, found both men guilty and sentenced them to life in prison. 

JWI firmly believe that the court of Appeal case that began on the 8/10/2013 highlighted among other issues that case against the men was so fundamentally flawed and corrupt it should have been dismissed due to the fact that the evidence used inconclusive, contradictory and in discredited, an appeal case that public prosecution service admitted that case was not proved beyond reasonable doubt. The fact is, that both men find themselves victims of a system that sought to find suitable scapegoats in the wake of the political and media backlash following the Killing of Stephen Carroll.

JWI has carried out a comprehensive review of all the information available in the case of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton and we are without doubt, that both men have been denied the Right to a Fair Trial as set out in Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Furthermore for a human rights advocate or legal practitioner the case of what has become known as the Craigavon 2 is extremely distressing and worrying. One such assumption or inference is that the on-going case is extremely sinister and politically motivated. Possibly as way of revenge or more likely; that the state authorities logistically choose individuals as a human sacrifice. Used as a way to intimidate all persons in that society that refuse to conform, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton have always been proud outspoken anti-colonial republicans. This policy, fly’s in the face of the genuine expectation of any citizen in a legitimate democracy in which, political opposition is a necessity. Furthermore in 1998, the people of the Ireland were promised a ’new dispensation’ a society with a political and legal system that would be open and transparent. The people overwhelming supported the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Unfortunately since the re-election of the British Conservative Party in 2010, the very basic GFA is in the process of being dismantled. During this process and in cases such as with the current elected right wing British political party not only breached the GFA, obliterating the rights, hopes and aspirations of the Irish people, they have also breached their own basic principles on the rule of law, due process under the law and the right to fair trial. As a result they have breached international and domestic human rights protections and illustrated that non-conformity will be met with authoritarian rule and injustice. 

With that said, JWI are committed to the case of these two men, we are committed to assisting the families, supporters and legal teams in any way we can. Unfortunately we believe that this case, due to the high political stakes now involved will not get a fair hearing within the British legal system, as a result, will need to go through the charade of exhausting all domestic remedies so as to find possible remedy in the European Court of Human Rights. 

JWI are convinced that any reasonable citizen that looks at the case with objectivity will see clearly that evidence used alongside twisted perceptions to uphold discredited an inconclusive forensics, the use of vulnerable, impressionable and discredited witnesses all contrived to put Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton in Jail for life is without any legal merit and sets dangerous precedent for us all.


  1. I realise that JWI is new to the scene but the abuses of the police, pps and courts are not new. Your claim that the case of these two men "sets dangerous precedent for us all." I am sorry to say that that precedent was set decades ago. Since then countless cases have followed, including Gerry Conlon's which you should know.

    "The causes of miscarriages of justice which were highlighted in the 80s and 90s have not disappeared. The causes used to be police corruption, disclosure and forensic evidence and today we are seeing these causes resurface but for different reasons. There is an unhappy repetition and a moral and legal blindness. This shows that those responsible have not learned any lessons from the past and we have come back round to the systematic failure in the system."
    Interview with Michael Mansfield QC, barrister at Tooks Chambers, Friday 3 August

    We can all think that the convictions were a result of some 'sinister and political motivation' but that does not convert into proof -even for the European Court of Human Rights. I find your take on the case is excessive with rhetoric and radical anti-establishment soundbites. If these men are innocent then they need something more than what you have given us.

    You touch briefly on what I think might be more substantial grounds casting doubt upon the convictions, things like, surveillance data being erased, DNA on a coat, witness M. It might help the men more if you can explain how these things help prove that the men are innocent. hard facts and evidence beat innuendo and your personal speculation about the motives of the Court.