Director of Charades

  • I do not think that anyone who takes part in these charades of court cases has the right to call themselves a jurist – Pat Livingstone.

It is heartening to see Pat Livingstone, a former H Block protestor whose memory has not been ravished by strategic forgetfulness, persist through the letters pages of the Irish News with his critique of the Diplock Courts. His interest is no doubt stirred by the fact that he was a victim of the judicial malfeasance practiced by Diplock. The unjust mechanics of the system he can claim to know a thing or two about. Experience is great teacher.

A matter of weeks ago Pat Livingstone hit out at the farcical trial of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton.  This week he took the British state’s chief prosecutor in Ireland, Barra McGrory, to task for wanting the tariff imposed on the two men lengthened so that sentencing in the North of Ireland would be brought into line with England. Livingstone reminded McGrory that the North is not England where people accused of shooting police are at least afforded a jury trial.

McGrory, in the language of political unionism that we were for long accustomed to during Pat Livingstone's imprisonment, had argued that the sentences were unduly lenient. McGrory was dancing to the tune of the DUP’s Paul Girvan who in May 2012 called for Wootton’s sentence to be on a par with McConville’s:
On the face of it, I can see no material difference to justify the difference in sentencing of 25 years for Brendan McConville and 14 years for John Wootton.
McGrory subsequently sought McConville’s tariff to be increased from 25 to 30 years and for Wooton’s to be extended from 14 to 21: 'In the circumstances of this case it should have been a tariff of 30 years or more.' Even the British judiciary found that hard to stomach and dismissed his application at least in respect of McConville.

Bringing the North into line with England in terms of ridding it of Diplock courts seemed not to concern McGrory. Justice is to be anglicised only to the extent that it is draconian rather than liberal.

It is in the sphere of the criminal justice system that the achievements, perhaps better described as the limits, of the much vaunted equality agenda are to be seen. Catholics now have an equal chance alongside Protestants to serve as judges in 'British' Diplock courts. Imagine being told that was a worthwhile goal back in the day: worth doing time for, worth killing cops like Stephen Carroll for.

For those who receive rather than administer the gavel in court, equality is a threadbare concept. In the brave new world of equal opportunity, non-state actors have a much greater opportunity to appear in court charged with illegality activity in the distant past than state actors. Opportunity is not always advantage.

The jailed Palestinaian jurist Shireen Issawi recently wrote ‘I am a lawyer, I have the right and duty to defend our prisoners.’ Not a philosophy Barra the Brit can any longer claim affinity with.


  1. It beggars belief that Barra and his dad for sat high on the hogs back representing nationalist/republican accused. Particularly during the super-grass era. Now we can only imagine where their loyalties lay, not entirely with their pockets I'd suggest. I'll gotten gains indeed. I had dealings with Barra-boy long ago and I never liked anything about him. Can only imagine he's considerably worse now.

  2. Can't have anything but respect for Pat Livingstone. What he went through is just shocking. There's been a hell of a raucous over the Boston College research project, but I'm wondering might a research/interview project on former prisoners and their treatment and railroading be a viable proposal. So many were shafted by a sectarian corrupt RUC and judiciary that I bet a pattern and consistent lack of 'evidence' would not only shine through but be backed up by court records. Put the disgusting system in the dock. I'm sure there are hundreds of shocking stories/cases. RESPECT to Pat Livingstone is all I can say!