Has David Ford even read the Patten Report?

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Alliance Party leader David Ford must have watched last December as British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a public apology for the unchecked, extra-judicial and murderous activities of the Force Research Unit (or FRU) in Ireland. Cameron lamented at the time that, “The collusion demonstrated beyond any doubt… is totally unacceptable”.

The issue with collusion was never simply that it happened but rather how it happened: how a culture of impunity emerged and was sustained; how state agents managed to act extra-judically, without fear of local oversight or local accountability. Real policing reform, starting with the Patten Report and culminating with the appointment of a local Justice Ministry with responsibility for local policing, was desiged to end that nefarious, lethal culture.

Why then is David Ford advocating for the introduction of the NCA, the National Crime Agency, to Northern Ireland?

Thanks to the SDLP and SF, the NCA will not be coming to a dark corner near your community (though it probably will anyway).

The Alliance Party may be out of touch with the meat of recent negotiations, but for anyone remotely familiar with the reasons fundamental policing reform was fought for and secured by Nationalist parties in the years before and since the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, SF and the SDLP’s determination to block an NCA usurpation of local policing powers is easy to understand.

Local Policing Accountability is a red line issue for Nationalists, and hopefully others besides.

As the BBC reported, were the new NCA given a pass to circumnavigate both the PSNI and the local policing boards’ powers of accountability and oversight, the consequences would include the concession of the following powers to shadowy operatives free from the scrutiny of locally elected officials:

- the powers of a police constable in Northern Ireland;
- the authority to carry out searches and make arrests;
- the ability to conduct surveillance operations;
- the ability to recruit and run informers and agents.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that extra-judicial killings, corruption and a general social poisoning were direct consequences of policing operations that were insulated from accountability to the local communities they at times terrorized, the Alliance Party’s leader David Ford appears confused. According to Ford,

“There is a real danger if it does not go ahead there will be very significant costs to the police both in terms of time and finances and that we will have an inferior response to the serious organised crime that we face,”

David Ford, NI’s only minister not appointed under the d’Hont mechanism, cannot be unaware (surely?) that some of the most “serious organised crime” Northern Ireland has ever faced was organized by agents of the state who were left free to operate beyond the scrutiny of locally elected officials.

The Alliance Party has earned some decent media of late but little, if any, of that has been down to the actions – or inactions – of its leader. While M.P for East Belfast Naomi Long – Ford’s conspicuous, dignified and determined party colleague – has executed the responsibilities of elected office with elan and courage, Ford’s knee-shakingly timid response to weeks of rioting, road blocks and attacks on police officers has, by contrast, left many wondering: what’s the point of having a Justice Minister at all?

Now that Ford has reappeared his attempts to remind everyone that he’s still on post by acting as lead Cheer Leader for the introduction of the NCA to Northern Ireland, his calls for a reversion to the days of policing of the people but not by the people, has only served to aggrevate those who hadn’t forgotten he was still around.

It is difficult to assess what is more disturbing: a locally appointed Justice Minister who believes his power to hold ‘intelligence operations’ to account are too many, or a Justice Minister who appears blissfully unaware of why his post was created in the first place. Either way, confidence in Ford’s ability to man the Justice Minsitry can never have been lower. Though he may not have claimed much personal input towards the original Patter inspired policing reforms, by endorsing the NCA and the loss of local accountability the question must be asked: Has he even read the Patten Report?

Let’s assume Ford has read Patten. Let’s assume he has listened to the British Prime Minister acknowledge and apologize for the murder of Irish citizens by, at best, ‘out of control’ extra-judicial paramilitary policing agents. Let’s assume Ford also understands that local powers of accountability are a minimum bulwark against slipping back into the days when Ireland was treated as a counter-insurgency laboratory.

Assuming all that, could the Alliance Party please tell us why local people should have any faith whatsoever in unaccountable intelligence agents run from outside Northern Ireland?

Does the Alliance Party simply not understand the reasons Nationalists (primarily though not exclusively) will not countenance losing hard won powers to hold policing actions accountable?

Some will argue that Alliance’s positioning here is less about policing policy than political posturing; Ford’s attempt to distinguish his party from the SDLP. I’m not convinced this is that thought-through. Perhaps someone could hand him a copy of Patten before he leaves?

  • aquifer

    For the IRA, conspiracy to murder was the rule, not the exception.

    It is unreasonable to expect elected civil representatives to be able to stand firm against armed blackmail, and possible assassination, as previously practiced by violent separatists and sectarian murder gangs.

    So the security services are run from GB.

    The security services have a proven ability to penetrate and incapacitate armed gangs, though there have certainly been extra-judicial killings on the state side.

    It seems to have been a question of the lesser of two evils when the IRA had no viable plan to quickly suppress large numbers of protestants, outside of getting the English to do it.

    It is strange to see advocates for violent insurrectionism attempting to cash cheques at the international bank of civil rights, a bank they have paid little into over the years.

    Playing ‘an beal bocht’ begins to look pathetic.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    @Ruarai,

    I wasn’t aware that the Force Reaction Unit operated in Ireland, I thought it operated exclusively in Northern Ireland.

    The problem with having police and their agents accountable to the people in NI is that in NI there is not “the people”–except in some purely sectarian sense–but rather peoples.

    Alliance was given the justice ministry because of its control over policing because neither Sinn Fein nor the DUP could be trusted to administer policing in an impartial manner. Neither for that matter could the SDLP or the UUP, although either of these would be less partial than the two members of the ruling duopoly.

    Would you really have the DUP running policing and the local police board than those supervised by London? Or would unionists have any confidence in members of the Republican Movement, from either half, preventing sabotage, murder and terrorism by dissident republicans?

  • Fitzy2012

    Aquifer, do you not think at this point in time, where most of us have moved on and those groups have possibly decommisioned , that its not a valid excuse to just use the IRA as an example for why we shouldnt use elected civil representatives. That seems like the good auld fashioned sulky and childish, “it’s cos they done that.”

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ruarai, your contribution here is mostly recycled SDLP soundbites which are long out of date. But had there been a desire, a better way could have been found to resolve this. For example a requirement could have been created that the NCA would have to regularly brief either the Justice Committee or the Police Board of its work (perhaps except in special circumstances).

    This is nothing to do with policing or accountability. This is SF and the SDLP playing sectarian games with law and order, as they always have done.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    SF and the SDLP’s determination to block an NCA usurpation of local policing powers is easy to understand.

    Why are they so up in arms about the NCA and yet so quiet over MI5 having a free rein in the North?

  • Obelisk

    “This is nothing to do with policing or accountability. This is SF and the SDLP playing sectarian games with law and order, as they always have done.”

    Comrade Stalin, I have a great deal of respect for you however could you please acknowledge that the issues my community has/had with the police force (a police force I currently support) were rooted in very real grievances and the SDLP and Sinn Fein aren’t playing games through these actions, but reflecting considerable unease among Nationalists over this issue, unease that has a historical background.

  • iluvni

    Sinn Fein or sdlp supporting efforts to tackle organised crime?
    Pull the other one.

  • Old Mortality

    Ruarai
    Ford stood up to the legal aid parasites and won. For that he has my admiration. Would a DUP or SF justice minister have even attempted it? No other Stormont minister has had the backbone to take on an interest group.
    That probably doesn’t matter much to you or you may even be an embittered legal aid parasite.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Yankee doodling is handy when attacking those, in this case David Ford, who do not subscribe to the Irish nationalism’s, ahem, ‘interesting’ take on policing.

    Given that many in that constituency have never been comfortable within the UK it is perhaps understandable that a prejudiced attitude to law and order exists.

    They are seemingly partially happy with the PSNI at the moment (and it is a moment by moment position) so long as the cops confine themselves to looking pretty in their colourful squad cars and absent themselves when paramilitary displays occur during terrorist funerals.

    Any attempts at robust investigation will be met by rent-a-mob turning up outside Police HQ for an intimidatory picket. Perhaps that explains the lamentable lack of success in combatting ‘dissidents’?

    The ‘oversight’ systems are also going swimmingly for nationalists. The HET seems focused on loyalist crimes, which is fine, however given that the majority of nationalist terrorist murders remain unsolved a little bit of balance might be nice. The Police Ombudsman is also on message providing as he does a single target (trash the RUC) revisit to the past.

    So all you international people traffickers, child abusers, drug smugglers, money launderers and other representatives of the world’s forty shades of graft; come in to the parlour there’s a welcome there for you.

  • tacapall

    “David Ford, NI’s only minister not appointed under the d’Hont mechanism, cannot be unaware (surely?) that some of the most “serious organised crime” Northern Ireland has ever faced was organized by agents of the state who were left free to operate beyond the scrutiny of locally elected officials.”

    Lets not forget either that to date no security force personel involved in joint enterprises of murder with loyalist paramilitaries have yet to face a court of law. David Ford in his position as Justice Minister has yet to inform the public just why that is so. indeed his silence on the continued imprisonment of Martin Cory and Marian Price on secret evidence by a British appointed overseer of law and order, the same person or people the NCA would be accountable to. Justice must be seen to be served and unfortunately the British government and elements within this state are determined that we the public will not see justice. Sinn Fein and the SDLP are right to reject this, the thought of more Patrick Finucane type murders and Martin Cory type imprisonments coupled with the fact that although there is evidence of wide scale collusion between members of the RUC and MI% in the murder of citizens of this state, no-one it seems is willing to bring those police officers or agents of the state to justice.

  • tacapall

    “So all you international people traffickers, child abusers, drug smugglers, money launderers and other representatives of the world’s forty shades of graft; come in to the parlour there’s a welcome there for you.”

    These people SOS. -

    http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/01/28/286016/uk-planning-wmd-false-flag-in-syria/

    UK defense contractor planning WMD false flag in Syria.

    Documents allegedly “hacked” belonging to the UK-based defense contractor Britam appear to show the company has been considering an offer from Qatar to use Libyan chemical weapons in Homs, Syria, in order to frame both the Syrian and Russian governments.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Poor tacapall. Very poor.

  • tacapall

    UPC I wouldn’t expect any less from the likes of yourselves, after all it was members of your police force that armed your brand of terrorists that were allowed to murder with impunity.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Obelisk

    How is “your community” different from Comrade‘s?

  • DoppiaVu

    Fitzy2012

    “… do you not think at this point in time, where most of us have moved on…”

    Could you point out to me what part of Ruarai’s post shows that he’s moved on?

  • Obelisk

    Tacapall

    Is it really wise to place much faith in press tv? It’s an Iranian based broadcaster apparently subject to intense government interference, a government with a well publicised stake in supporting the Syrian regime.
    I would take a story such as this with a substantial amount of salt.

    IJP

    I am unfamiliar as to whether Comrade Stalin comes from a Nationalist or a Unionist background. If he is originally from a Nationalist background then my original statement was poorly phrased and I apologise.

    If instead you mean that we all share one community up here in the North and that references to “my community” then I will merely disagree as that is just wishing rather than reflecting a divided reality.

    A better way of expressing my point maybe that the many many people who vote Sinn Fein and the SDLP would be very, very leery of the NCA given their historical experiences. Those historical experiences are valid and they too simply cannot be wished away. It’s a toxic legacy, the erasing of which is the work of generations.

  • The Raven

    And Obelisk is correct; each and every one of us, regardless of community, should be very wary of the mission creep of state security, especially anything being put in place by the British.

    Each agency forms its own version of mission creep; after each “atrocity”, the mission creeps further, egged on by the readership of the Daily Mail Brigade. That may sound simplistic, but how many rights to privacy are eroded everytime someone places a device on a tube train or bus?

    As a Protestant, and a lite-Unionist, I’m delighted this has been thwarted. For now. Even countenancing allowing the introduction of yet another shadowy unaccountable layer in the Brit-spooks’ favourite playground was a mistake beyond belief.

  • David Crookes

    Scáth Shéamais (9.56 am), because they know that MI5 is not working to cement the union ‘for centuries to come’.

  • SDLP supporter

    As a member of a party, SDLP, which has an exemplary record in standing up for the rule of law, I really object to tmitch’s assertion that SDLP could not be trusted to administer policing in an impartial manner. If it has done the job impartially in all other portfolios, why not policing?

    What planet does Comrade Stalin come from when he writes something like “a requirement could have been created that the NCA would have to regularly brief either the Justice Committee or the Police Board of its work (perhaps except in special circumstances).”? Guess how often the “special circumstances” exception would be used and how a coach and horses would be driven through democratic accountability!

    The fact is that policing in all its aspects needs the maximum amount of democratic accountability, no exceptions, because even the most cursory scan of past Policing Ombudsman reports demonstrates clearly that some members of the RUC Special Branch were up to their necks in murder and collusion with loyalist paramilitaries and have never been made accountable.

    Even in GB, where the Metropolitan Police were put on a pedestal, Levenson has shown that key members were up to their necks in corruption. The difference with the North is that no-one died.

  • SDLP supporter

    Oh, and by the way, I do give David Ford credit for having the cojones to stand up to the “legal aid parasites”, so unelegantly referred to.

  • otto

    “David Ford, NI’s only minister not appointed under the d’Hont mechanism…….”

    There are five ministerial positions not appointed under d’hondt. Four of them were created by the SDLP and UUP – the FM, DFM and Junior minister positions. One was created by the devolution of justice.

    Why are the two extra ministries occupied by SF and the DUP not a bigger injustice than the ministry of justice?

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “As a member of a party, SDLP, which has an exemplary record in standing up for the rule of law”

    SDLP supporter, SDLP elected representatives have used the DFA- AIIC/BIIC back channel to influence/alter day-to-day policing decisions here. It was an SDLP representative who drew my attention to this unscrutinisable and therefore unaccountable process and British and Irish civil servants who helped fill in some of the missing detail. You’re probably unaware of such SDLP hypocrisy. AFAIK no Slugger blogger has taken the trouble to shed light on this part of governance.

  • SDLP supporter

    Nevin, you give absolutely no detail on your statement that SDLP used its political influence “to influence/alter day-to-day policing decisions here”, so it is impossible for me or anyone else to judge if this was “SDLP hypocrisy”.

    All political parties make representations, that is what they do, and it’s perfectly acceptable if it is within the law. It is only unacceptable if it seeks to facilitate the breaking of the law of the land or to pervert the course of justice.

    Being crude about it, Nevin, put up or shut up and put the details of your allegation in the public domain. There’s a word to describe what you are doing: McCarthyism.

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks, The Raven. You say, “…..every one of us, regardless of community, should be very wary of the mission creep of state security…..”

    Repeat one hundred times, and then chisel in stone.

    Farmers tell me incredible tales of the extent to which they are spied on from the sky.

    It would make life wonderfully easy for all kinds of official enforcers if the human population agreed to be chipped. But the point of human life is not to make life easy for the enforcers.

    Over and over again the enforcers tell us, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” That is stupid. Every one of us has lots of our authentic humanity to hide. I don’t want to be filmed by some cursed camera every time I walk down the road.

    A real liberal is prepared for wrong things to happen every so often. Only a mad totalitarian wants to make it impossible for wrong things to happen, ever.

    People who study the 9/11 affair often point out that the tighten-up-everything brigade had their great package of legislation ready and waiting before anything happened. Today, in the land of the so-called free, many ordinary people are scared to criticize the government when they’re writing e-mails to their friends.

    Let’s get real. Instead of worrying about international cybergangs taking over Tildarg, let’s deal with the feral alcoholic youths who are taking over parts of Belfast at night.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    People across the whole of the UK should be wary of this new organization. It smacks a bit like a “secret” police. It is being compared to the FBI. Well, the FBI is an admirable police service in many ways but it was, of course, abused for political purposes by Director Hoover over decades.
    If there are truly national threats from a criminal organization, it would probably be dealt with most effectively with a task force assembled from top investigations drawn from the various regional police organizations.
    As David (Crookes) points out, people in the UK are already subjected to more surveillance that any where else in the world. It is more than enough already.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    “investigators”

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “All political parties make representations, that is what they do, and it’s perfectly acceptable if it is within the law”

    SDLP supporter, it’s hypocrisy when the SDLP preaches about accountability but uses a mechanism where there is no accountability; no law AFAIK is being broken but such sneaky practice IMO is unacceptable.

    You’re asking me to name my sources but these are folks that I’ve worked with, in the public interest as I perceive it, and I’ve no plans to betray a trust.

    Part of the mechanism is already in the public domain and has been for many years but whether or not there was any SDLP input is of no great significance. For me, the lack of accountability and the linkage of responsibility to the wrong people are much more significant.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    @SDLP Supporter,

    The SDLP could not be relied upon to support any sanctions against SF over the IRA’s refusal to decommission its weapons in a timely fashion for seven years. Admittedly the SDLP may have had legitimate political concerns that its soft electorate would desert it for SF if it put teeth into its calls for Republicans to disarm, but that is a consideration that Alliance does not face. Likewise, the UUP might face political considerations in dealing with loyalist flag protesters for committing illegal actions.

  • SDLP supporter

    tmitch. you really are dodging the issue!. You stated that SDLP could not be trusted to handle the Justice portfolio impartially and then you switch the topic, because you can’t stand up your initial allegation. You admit that the SDLP may have had ‘legitimate political concerns’ but then imply that having such concerns would disqualify it from handling the so-called “sensitive” ministerial portfolio, On the basis of your logic, the SDLP should not be entitled to hold any portfolio in the Executive. Maybe all the other Assembly parties should disband and hand over all ministries to Alliance with their massive 6% of the vote, as they are the only parties which could be ‘trusted’ by such proven paragons of integrity like John Major and Tony Blair?

    As for Nevin. you’re a busted flush. First, you imply the SDLP was involved in illegality, then you reduce the charge to ‘hypocrisy’, then being ‘sneaky’. You’re probably one of those guys still going around muttering how ‘duplicious’ John Hume was going behind Molyneaux’s back and negotiating the Anglo Irish Agreement. You can’t make your allegation stand. If you’ve any honour, withdraw it.

  • 6crealist

    Nevin, what implications does the SDLP/SF decision have for the north Antrim region?

  • tacapall

    Obelisk look around the world today I dont think you will find any Iranian soldiers invading other countries, but there’s loads of evidence of British involvement in arming terrorists, overthrowing governments who dont support their view of what democracy is, remember WMDs in Iraq, any evidence yet that they existed. was this lie not plastered over the airwaves by the BBC, are those so called freedom fighters in Syria not the same al-Qaida that are/were supposedly in Iraq, Afghanistan Libya, Somalia, Mali, now Syria and no doubt in the near future other African and middle east countries that have natural resources that would generate profit and power for the elitist few.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “you imply the SDLP was involved in illegality”

    SDLP supporter, you drew that inference; it’s your own fault, so don’t go blaming others.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Nevin, what implications does the SDLP/SF decision have for the north Antrim region?”

    6crealist, I should imagine that London and Dublin will find a way around the SDLP/SF ‘roadblock’.

    I steer clear of paramilitary related stories; I wouldn’t want to put other folks at risk. I should imagine there are still ‘good’ paramilitaries in receipt of immunity certificates; folks the police can observe but intervention requires political clearance.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Pat Sheenan on today’s Stephen Nolan Show kept referring to his party’s mythical ‘accountability mechanisms’ in regards to the PSNI yet he was left gasping for words when it was thrown up to him by a Unionist that they, SF, have remained silent on the fact that MI5 have it’s Headquarters in Holywood.

    Indeed 41 years after 14 people were murdered while marching in protest against Internment we still have Internment in place with SF remaining silent and their ‘accountability mechanisms’ malfunctioning due to lack of use.

    Indeed Bernadette McAliskey was correct on Sunday….

    “We came on the streets to end internment without trial yet here we are 41 years later in a new administration, a new dispensation, new power structures, and new civic collaborators and we still have internment without trial with people in prison on the whim and diktat of the Northern Ireland Secretary of State,”

  • Comrade Stalin

    Obelisk,

    I am unfamiliar as to whether Comrade Stalin comes from a Nationalist or a Unionist background.

    But why do you care ? That’s the problem. I’m sorry but once again this is typical SDLP. Oh that guy’s probably a prod, therefore he doesn’t care about policing being accountable and fair.

    As it happens I am fully aware of the problems that people (not just nationalists) have with unaccountable and abusive policing. Much of that happened not directly because of British control, but because of problems traceable back to the old Stormont regime and of course some very bad decisions which were taken over how to deal with counter-terrorism.

    A single police organization with responsibility across the UK is not even remotely comparable to the issues we had with a regional police force which acted mostly by as a law unto itself with limited parliamentary oversight. There is no reason why nationalists could not have proposed some sort of compromise whereby the NCA could have been required to brief the Justice Minister or Police Board on operations for example.

    Instead, what nationalists have done is allowed a situation to occur where we are the only region of the UK or Ireland combined which does not have an assets recovery agency running (the original ARA was merged into SOCA, which has now been replaced by the NCA which can’t operate in NI). So Northern Ireland is going to be the only part of the UK where criminals sporting assets quite clearly far beyond their means have no policing organization actively investigating their activities. The SDLP and SF are acting to make Northern Ireland the crime capital of these islands in the name of a dated sectarian “Brits Out” argument. It is pathetic and contemptible, and it is going to make this country a more dangerous place to live.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dixie,

    But there is no “internment without trial”. Everyone who is in prison is serving a sentence set by a judge after being tried and convicted in a court of law.

  • http://www.e-consultation.org/ davenewman

    How about giving investigative and arrest powers in Northern Ireland to both the FCA and the Gardai?

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Sure, Dave. Those suspected of child sexual abuse would likely love the Gardai to be in charge of the investigation. Would give a whole new slant to the word “untouchables”.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dave, I’d agree with that but it would necessarily require reciprocal rights.

  • Obelisk

    Tacapall

    Not to completely de-rail this thread, this will be my only comment on this matter. In your response you wrote

    “..was this lie not plastered over the airwaves by the BBC,”

    Whereas in the previous comment you quoted a story from Press TV and expect us to treat it as truth simply because they say nasty things about groups you have an ideological issue with.

    Frankly I have a lot more respect for the BBC, with full knowledge of all their errors, than I would for any mouthpiece for the Iranian Government.

    Comrade Stalin

    Your background doesn’t actually concern me, I was attempting to formulate a response to IJP on that question and I was unsure if his response to my earlier statement meant you were from a Catholic background and that my use of the term ‘my community’ was exclusionary and limited. Even if he didn’t mean that it I guess he was right, it’s funny how you can make unconscious slips like that.

    Still what I am trying to communicate is that I can see the whole NCA business is a good idea in theory, but that a lot of people have good reason to mistrust the whole enterprise.

    Surely detoxifying communities of this mistrust is as important as the wider fight against crime.
    And what good would the NCA really serve if it became the latest Sinn Fein shorthand for securocrats. This is the work of generations, but I do believe we are off to a good start.

    Maybe Sinn Fein and the SDLP at some point in the future can be convinced on this issue if enough safeguards are put in.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Old Mortality and SDLP Supporter,

    Just thought I would say that it was the civil servants in the courts service that went to war with the lawyers following the same blueprint as they did in England. David Ford was just a puppet.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Surely detoxifying communities of this mistrust is as important as the wider fight against crime.

    It certainly is as important, and it deserves a more constructive approach than the SDLP joining with SF to say “Brits out”.

    And what good would the NCA really serve if it became the latest Sinn Fein shorthand for securocrats.

    Non-SF nationalists should surely not allow their views to be dictated by what SF thinks of the matter.

    Lionel

    Just thought I would say that it was the civil servants in the courts service that went to war with the lawyers following the same blueprint as they did in England. David Ford was just a puppet.

    Unlike the SDLP’s preferred candidate Alban Maginness, who would absolutely not have been a puppet of the legal profession and who would have stood up to his old friends bullying him by going on strike ?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Comrade,

    Unlike the SDLP’s preferred candidate Alban Maginness, who would absolutely not have been a puppet of the legal profession and who would have stood up to his old friends bullying him by going on strike ?

    The Legal Professions are not organized enough to bully anyone. I dont know if Alban would have given up a good PR move to defend the legal profession. I am fairly confident though that he would not lie and mislead the Assembly and the public about it.

    David Ford took £18.3 million out of a £29.5 million budget and claimed it was a 5-10% cut. These for the most serious crimes in the crown court and he claimed it was not going to harm the service. I mean Legal Aid got out of control in the Crown Court but anyone who believes you can take 60-70% out of any service and not really damage it is either reckless or stupid.

    I do not want to go over old ground but it was an eye-opener to see the dishonesty of the man.

    Also Comrade,

    On the NCA issue, you say:

    Ruarai, your contribution here is mostly recycled SDLP soundbites which are long out of date. But had there been a desire, a better way could have been found to resolve this. For example a requirement could have been created that the NCA would have to regularly brief either the Justice Committee or the Police Board of its work (perhaps except in special circumstances).

    This is nothing to do with policing or accountability. This is SF and the SDLP playing sectarian games with law and order, as they always have done.

    The Minister must not have had much of a desire then to find a compromise.

    At what point will the Alliance Party stop simply talking about a better way to do things and actually do it. Like the way they say they are the “shared future” party but walk away from the working group. Like complaining about the way people were being led to protest in East Belfast whilst forgetting that Alliance is now a big player in the constituency and should have been doing more to bring their voters along with them.

    When will the Alliance stop acting like a preachy lobby group and start acting like a political party?

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Stalin: “But there is no “internment without trial”. Everyone who is in prison is serving a sentence set by a judge after being tried and convicted in a court of law.”

    There are a number of cases of ‘internment by remand’.

    There are specific issues around the current detention of Martin Corey, who is being held on the basis of “closed material”. Justice Treacy said his rights were breached and that he should be released, but this was overruled by SoS Shaun Woodward. Then there’s the case of Marian Price, who has been detained since May 2011 when Owen Paterson revoked her licence.

    There are obviously a few other cases of people being imprisoned without conviction, but these two are probably the most prominent.

  • otto

    Lionel:

    That’s a great post.

    Re the budget cut. Is the budget for the Crown Court now really 60-70% less than, say 2009, or has there been a redistribution of the remaining available funds?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Otto,

    I cant find broken down figures for Crown Court Legal Aid for the last financial year. I see that £45 million was used for criminal legal aid in total, down from £51 million last year. that includes the Magistrates court which is around £20 million AFAIK.

    See the NIAO report though:

    http://www.niauditoffice.gov.uk/pubs/2011/legal_aid/8935_Legal_aid_final.pdf

    Figure 4 at page 15 it gives a break down for the last decade. The Crown Court fees in total would be the “Crown Court excluding VHCC” column added to the VHCC column. A total of £29.5 milion in 2010-11, the year before the cuts came in. It will take a few years to filter through the system but is projected to save £18.3 million (see Page 61 of the report).

    That leaves £11.2 million. And about £2-2.5 million of that goes to expert witnesses. none of that is touched by the legal aid reforms. All in all you will have around £8 million to fund the defence of all 2000 or so Crown Court prosecutions per annum. Thats for the solicitors, barristers and QCs.

    But it wont affect the service apparently.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Scath :

    There are specific issues around the current detention of Martin Corey, who is being held on the basis of “closed material”. Justice Treacy said his rights were breached and that he should be released, but this was overruled by SoS Shaun Woodward.

    You forgot to mention that the appeal court upheld Woodward’s decision. Denying bail to people considered by a judge to pose a threat is not internment.

    Then there’s the case of Marian Price, who has been detained since May 2011 when Owen Paterson revoked her licence.

    Price’s license was indeed revoked, she is serving out the two life terms for the offence she was convicted for in the 1970s. That’s not internment either.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Lionel:

    The Legal Professions are not organized enough to bully anyone.

    That’s hilarious. A clearly co-ordinated strike effort occurred and solicitors who threatened to break the strike (when Ford attempted to compile a list of lawyers willing to work) were warned off.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Coordinated implies a degree of forward planning. There were was certainly a collective standing together but fundamentally dysfunctional and the rest is nonsense. I got the letter asking me to join a list, which feelsjust wrong for independent counsel. I wouldn’t have signed up because I was being lied to. If I had been warned off, I probably would have enlisted. Anyway, my point was about puppet Ford and his lies.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Coordinated implies a degree of forward planning.

    There must have been some forward planning on the go given that a couple of solicitors had agreed to break the strike and then a few days later withdrew from that. Someone must have nobbled them, which clearly shows that there was an organized thing happening with someone in charge.

    Rather like the flag protests, I imagine it just fell apart when people got bored with it and realized they weren’t going to win.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Comrade Stalin you are well suited to your pseudonym…A judge said the Birmingham 6, The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven were guilty.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Comrade,

    It is more likely because they couldn’t get a barrister. They knew they weren’t going to win. The only way to win was to let people go to prison and they didn’t have the balls to let it happen

  • http://footballcliches.wordpress.com/ footballcliches

    CS,

    ‘The SDLP and SF are acting to make Northern Ireland the crime capital of these islands in the name of a dated sectarian “Brits Out” argument. It is pathetic and contemptible, and it is going to make this country a more dangerous place to live.’

    You are kidding, right? That’s nonsensical from you in all fairness. You can champion wanting to have a fairly specific force to deal with tackling criminal assets, however, having a large and locally unaccountable organisation to come along and fulfill this is bonkers.

    As for this place becoming the criminal capital of these islands, you protest too much.

    As has been noted above, organisations like this are massively prone to mission creep and I am not entirely convinced they would be too answerable to any local oversight, regardless of what ‘checks’ you put in place. We need only look at how the PSNI recruited some former RUC officers who were made redundant/fired/told they were part of the problem/consigned to the toilet bowl of history to see that we still have a long way to go before we have local accountability of our local police service.

  • Reader

    Dixie Elliott: A judge said the Birmingham 6, The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven were guilty.
    Nope: juries said they were guilty; judges released them on appeal.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Stalin, the point is that they’re both imprisoned without being convicted of a crime. Price having her licence revoked was a petty act by the SoS because she got bail when charged with holding up a piece of paper at an Easter commemoration. There’s also Stephen Murney, who’s been held in Maghaberry for two months now on very spurious charges.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Not to mention how dubious it is that someone can be interned because a judge considers that they “pose a threat” and can do so on the basis of closed material that no defence can argue against.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Stalin

    ‘Price’s license was indeed revoked, she is serving out the two life terms for the offence she was convicted for in the 1970s.’

    And for which she received a full Royal Pardon in 1980.

    The records of which the British now say they have ‘lost.’ (Presumably they believe she must have escaped, and then lived openly for three decades, displaying a quite amazing confidence that she wouldn’t be rearrested. Presumably the resources of the British state don’t extend to a trip to a newspaper archive, where they could verify Marion Price’s pardon.)

    This is what the British government is doing today, now, in the present. (We needn’t even detain ourselves with reference to that authority’s past.) And this is the dark and malignant force to which Alliance believe we should relinquish our (hard fought) authority over
    policing.

    One’s opinion of Ms Price and her actions is irrelevant. If they can do it to her, they can do it to you.

    ‘That’s not internment either.’

    Personally, I’d call it kidnapping.

  • tacapall

    Keeping suspects in custody on secret evidence the accused is not allowed to see, now legislation is going through Westminster allowing secret courts behind closed doors.

    This is the future below, a future where anyone who dissents is classed as a threat a future that British politicians are dragging us into.