Outside The Box: Take 8

Sean Mallory casts doubt on the judicial system of those who rail loudest against Kangaroo Courts. Sean Mallory from Tyrone is a wry and sometimes caustic observer of politics both nationally and internationally.

Kangaroos and Diplock ...

Once again the public are informed of the disgusting and shameful actions of Republicans with regards to their conduct and treatment of known paedophiles and rapists and their lack of understanding and sympathy towards the innocent victims. All of these loathsome actions occurring within the constraints and boundaries of their partisan system of justice derogatorily described and dismissed as nothing more than a Kangaroo court. 

The term ‘Kangaroo court’ is bandied about so much now that the public is conditioned to reject it outright, without further thought, as being unjust and illegal. Very few if any, I being one, had any idea about its origin or the etymology of its name. So I consulted that well renowned electronic highway of information, the World Wide Web, and as usual the first site to pop-up with regards to this subject was Wikipedia. Below are a few abstracts from one of the articles:

‘A kangaroo court is a judicial tribunal or assembly that blatantly disregards recognized standards of law or justice, and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides. Merriam-Webster defines it as "a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted".’[1] 

‘....the term comes from the notion of justice proceeding "by leaps", like a kangaroo.[4] Another possibility is that the phrase could refer to the pouch of a kangaroo, meaning the court is in someone's pocket. The phrase is popular in the US, Australia and New Zealand and is still in common use.’[5]

From the above descriptions it is easy to understand the dismissive nature of public representatives towards Republican processes for meting out what they perceived to be justice, and rightly so. Any ‘institution’ be it a tribunal or assembly, that deviates and perverts society’s recognised standards of law and justice should be denounced for what it is, a Kangaroo Court.

Of course this is all based on the premise that society willingly lends its seal of approval to law and order when it perceives those institutions who administer and advocate the ‘law’ on its behalf are truly, in the maximum, representative of those ideals of what we deem to be ‘fair’. But what happens when that is not the case?
A kangaroo court is often held to give the appearance of a fair and just trial, even though the verdict has in reality already been decided before the trial has begun. Such courts are typically run by authoritarian governments .....’

What we have is a conflict of ideals which quite often ends in violence. From the British Poll tax demonstrations and riots, The British Coal Miner’s Strike and of course to Irish armed insurrection. In each of these cases the British government and its institutions all quoted the ‘law’ as a means to attempt to morally persuade, dissuade, and control people's objections to what had been decided by those same public representatives: to judicially deal with people who object by imposing the moral and ethical weight of the court’s power on them in order to justify their decisions. The court, being perceived as non-partisan and operating independently of the ruling institutions, will always act within the law and thus will enforce the law at all opportunities irrespective how that law is perceived by society.

But what happens when society perceives those institutions who exercise these ideals as not being representative of them or administering in their interests? 
Another source from the 1970s stated its derivation from Australia's courts while it was a penal colony.

The government and its institutions who incessantly clamour about following the rule of law will at every opportunity interfere with the law to ensure that the Courts are no longer deemed adequate and are sufficiently empowered enough to effectively deal with those who come before them. Those who objected to the decisions of the government now find themselves on the wrong side of the law. The Law has now become another branch of the government, losing its independence and non-partisanship. In effect, it is politically imposing government policies. This is most obvious where Diplock courts are in operation. Is a Diplock Court not also a Kangaroo Court? Should we not be as dismissive of Diplock as we are of Kangaroo? 
The term may also apply to a court held by a legitimate judicial authority who intentionally disregards the court's legal or ethical obligations.

Republicans, in establishing their own system and processes of justice did so within an armed conflict that left them void of the logistics held by the British. They had no means of incarceration nor means to proper court proceedings and therefore their decisions were based around a completely alien context to normal society. Their decisions, highly suspect and mostly based on protecting the ‘Movement’ at all costs, and their treatment of the victims based on professional ignorance of the trauma involved, leaves much to be desired and is open to criticism but within its proper context would any of us have done it any differently?  

Likewise, with Diplock when Republicans first stood in the dock and refused to recognise the court ... would they have done it any differently? Both occurred within particular contexts.

In the South, consecutive governments have been complicit in the concealment, and active in attempts to thwart and delay all and any investigation in to how the Catholic Church dealt with and continues to deal with paedophilia and its other past institutions of physical and mental abuse, yet the logistics of the State were available here for the State’s use at all times. Furthermore, the sole word of a police officer, based on their perceptions and nothing more substantial, should not be considered evidentially sufficient to convict. Kangaroo courts can take many forms! 

When we condemn Republicans and their processes of justice then surely, by ignoring the circumstances of why those processes were in place initially, we must extend that condemnation to Diplock while ignoring the circumstances of the need for it in the first place.

The denial by the Republican Leadership that it was aware of the publicly reported cases of late is what we should condemn them for. Their denials are tantamount to treason to us all for in condemning ‘those unknown’ for making such decisions, they are in effect betraying those who stood and denied Diplock.


  1. No matter if an official court's jurisdiction is contested victims of any crime should be allowed to go to through that justice system.

    The official British courts are not the system Republicans want but they have arms length intervention with the victim and perpetrator. They have access to the best technology and forensic resources. No legal system is perfect and the British one is far from that.

    You cannot have justice without miscarriages of justice and the best place to restrict miscarriages of justice is through a system which has the best chance of finding if someone is guilty or not.

    A system without forensic ability to test blood and examine medically, to counsel and to cross examine properly has little chance no matter how well meaning, compared to the British or Free State system.

    In a group as small as any Republican one there is too great a risk of nepotism or favouritism. Too great a risk of failure to detect forensic evidence of a crime and too great a risk of misinterpreting evidence.

    There is much greater risk of a miscarriage of justice. Whether against the victim or those on trial.

    Peoples' right to have access to the British system should be unfettered.

    In the case of any Republican sexual offender being found guilty if there is a fishing expedition by the police, and there will be, the offender should be held responsible and no-one else. That should act as a disincentive for sexual crime and not as a disincentive for getting justice for the victim.

    Otherwise rapists will go free and innocent people will be punished. No justice without miscarriages of justice.

  2. I was thinking about what I wrote and had to say that the lack of participation with the British justice system was understandable during the Troubles.

    The justice system was definitely not balanced. Spooks called the shots. Sometimes literally and other times out of self interest like Kincora.

    It would have been impossible to endorse a system which was biased, brought shoot to kill, collusion, torture, draconian punishment within prison, Kincora, diplock rules of evidence, etc. particularly when Republicans were fighting a physical war against them.

    So on balance during a conflict although justice would be desirable many people would go without it. It is the nature of the beast.

    Participation if it did happen would be unlikely to bring justice because of the distorted version of justice supplied by the state.

    I think this corruption overrides any ability to examine and investigate a crime.

    Sorry to be ambivalent, just mulling things over.

  3. Sean Mallory comments


    I understand the point you are trying to make but it is the context that these so called kangaroo courts arose that needs to be considered. There was a conflict on here and the British were on the opposing side therefore to imply that the British judicial system is somewhat impartial here is incredulous!!! Also, read up on how the British security services believed Joe Cahill to be a paedophile which Maria denies and when they eventually caught him at his dirty deeds how they dealt with it.....once you read that is it any wonder that Republicans didn't hand them over. And besides, in any conflict situation both sides do not view the other as legitimate....if they do it sort of begs the question as to why there is a need for conflict in the first place.

    The point I am trying to get across, is not to view Kangaroo courts in today's relatively normal situation but back when there was a conflict. Then you'll understand why they arose in the first place.

  4. Step ahead of you there Sean. I was thinking about what I wrote and reconsidered.