The Making Of An Anarchist In Portlaoise Prison @ Part 3

In the third of a multi part series Joe C narrates his experience of arrest and time served in Portlaoise Prison where he evolved into an anarchist.

The Special Criminal Court

For the first 6 months of being in jail I was brought back and forth to the Special Criminal Court once every month. On the 4th month I pleaded guilty. At the time I was arrested I had a 3 month suspended sentence hanging over me. This suspended sentence was hanging over me for 2 years.

When I was arrested for what I was in jail for I had only 2 weeks left on the suspended sentence. When I pleaded guilty the court reactivated the 3-month sentence. I was sent off to carry out sentences. Months later when it was completed I was brought back to the Special Criminal Court for hearing and then sentencing.

Detectives took their turn in the stand stating their evidence against me. One detective said I had enough explosives to make either 1 big pipe bomb or 10 smaller pipe bombs. This evidence, if it had been given in any other court, would not have been taken into consideration by the judges, because it was hearsay. Yes I was caught with some explosive powder, but I had no pipes or plumbing fittings, so there was no evidence that I was making pipe bombs.

I was sentenced to 6 years for having possession of 20 grams of explosive powder. If I had been sentenced in any other court I would have been given much less of a sentence. I remember one case I read about in the newspaper throughout my sentence, a case of 2 men who had stolen a serious amount of plastic explosives and they openly admitted they were planning to sell the explosives to "a criminal gang". Both men got 2 year sentences. The difference is big: I had a few grams of powder, they had kilos of plastic explosives.

The day of my hearing, another man had a hearing too. Just after I was sentenced, this man was up. Usually when you’re finished in court the screws will bring the prisoner back to the holding cell, but this day they didn't bring me back to the cell straight away. I was left sitting in the court.

The next man's hearing started, he came into the court in a wheelchair, he sat right beside where I was sitting. His trial began. He was accused of being a member of an illegal organization. The line of detectives took turns giving evidence against this man. One detective said at one point in his statement that he had seen the accused man run across one side of the road to the other. The accused man had been paraplegic since the 1980s! This detective blatantly lied on the stand, but yet the case against the accused went on. And he was still sentenced to 3 years in jail.

In the Special Criminal Courts if you are accused of being a member of an illegal organization, the state doesn’t need any evidence against you. Once the superintendent stands up in the box and swears on the bible and then states that you are a member of an illegal organization, that's all that's needed to sentence you to a few years in jail. If it's your first offence in the special criminal court you could get 2 to 4 years in jail. The maximum is 7 years.

My sentence was a normal enough one for the time. Most prisoners were serving between 4 and 7 years. But there were other prisoners that were doing 12 years, 20 years, 25 years, 40 years. There were four men doing forty year sentences. They were originally sentenced to death but had their sentence commuted to 40 years without remission. The four men were part of two different cases. Two men were found guilty of shooting a detective in 1980 and the other two were found guilty of shooting a cop in 1985.

One of the four was fighting in the European court that they should be in entitled to remission. For years he fought it out. Eventually they won. When I had one year left on my sentence two of the men had been in jail over 30 years, they were allowed to be released straight away. But only one of them left straight away, the other refused to leave till the state got him somewhere to live, he stayed on in the jail for another few weeks till they got him somewhere. The other two men are now coming near the end of their sentences.

When I looked at the cases of men that were doing way over life sentences each, I didn't feel too bad about the six year sentence I got. Realistically I wouldn't have to do a full 6 years. Every prisoner is entitled to remission. Remission in the South of Ireland is 1/3 off your sentence. So, in all, I had to do 4 and 6 months for the explosive powder and I’d have to do 2 months for the suspended sentence I had previously.

The Special Criminal Court is not really a court, you are already found guilty before you go in. It’s more of a show trial than anything else. The Special Criminal Court is illegal under EU regulations, so the Irish state gets fined a good few thousand euros each time a person is in it.

In all courts before you go in you are already seen as being guilty, even though it's meant to be "innocent till proven guilty". But at least in other courts if the cop is proven to be giving false evidence the case will be thrown out. In the Special Criminal Court it makes no odds. The cops giving evidence don't even try to get their stories straight with each beforehand. There are many, many cases where cops were proven to be lying while giving evidence but it always makes no odds. The case I gave above is a blatant example of how the cops lie.

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