Ivor Bell charged in connection with Jean McConville abduction and murder

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The BBC are reporting that Ivor Bell, who was arrested earlier this week, has been charged in connection with the abduction and murder of Jean McConville in December 1972.  From the BBC report

Ivor Bell, 77, who was a senior leader in the Provisional IRA in the 1970s, was arrested at his home in Andersonstown on Tuesday.

He has been charged with aiding and abetting murder and membership of the IRA. He is expected to appear in court on Saturday.

Ivor Bell was part of an IRA delegation that held secret talks with the British government in London in 1972.

Among the delegation were Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

Jean McConville, 37, became known as one of the Disappeared.

She was kidnapped in front of her children and accused of having been an informer. That claim was later dismissed following an official investigation.

She was held at one or more houses before being shot. Her body was recovered on a beach in County Louth in August 2003.

From an earlier BBC report, yesterday police had been granted until tonight to continue questioning him.

Adds  The “official investigation” was of course by the NI Police Ombudsman, and was rejected by the Provisional IRA at the time [2006].  See also Mick’s post – “The IRA, Human Rights and the McConville case“.

Update  From the PA report in the Irish Times

Ivor Bell (77) was refused bail when he appeared before a district judge in Belfast accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.

The court heard police moved against the pensioner on the basis of an interview he had given researchers compiling a Troubles archive at Boston College in America  -  tapes a US court ordered to be handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

And In a welcome move, Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, has suddenly discovered what due process means

In a statement today, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said:

“Due process prevents me from commenting on the recent charging of a man in relation to the death of Jean McConville. This is now a matter for the courts.

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  • socaire

    In a synchronous action by Dublin Metropolitan Police, several men have been arrested and charged with murder of detectives attached to Intelligence Units in Dublin Castle. Their ages range from 120 to140 years of age.

  • Morpheus

    How long before before those famous 3 letters are quoted?

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

    Pete,

    Did P O’Neill have any comment to make on the arrest? Or does Gerry no longer need an anonymous mouthpiece?

  • Charles_Gould

    It is a very interesting development. Await developments.

  • Harry Flashman

    From this point of course it is sub judice and the accused has the right to a fair and balanced trial. If he is found guilty of the foul murder he deserves to be punished for it.

    However I find it fascinating that the police and prosecution believe they have enough evidence in this case, involving perhaps a dozen people at most and committed in the dead of night on a tragic victim whose remains lay hidden for a quarter of a century.

    Meanwhile in a series of shootings committed in broad daylight, in front of the world’s media, in which the shooters all provided testimony to the authorities in which they insisted they fired “aimed shots” at their unarmed and in many cases fleeing victims and then presented their weapons for ballistic testing and in which literally thousands of independent witnesses all gave clear and concise descriptions of what they saw immediately following the shootings and in which forensic evidence was ascertained from all the bodies and upon which autopsies were carried out, the police are still at a loss as to whether they have enough evidence to bring charges.

    It’s a funny old world. I’m not a lawyer so maybe the really clever lawyer types could tell me why this should be so.

  • Zig70

    Is this enough to silence Enda’s jibes?

  • cynic2

    “I’m not a lawyer so maybe the really clever lawyer types could tell me why this should be so.”

    Because the law that set up the Inquiry made it clear that evidence given in the Inquiry couldn’t be used in later criminal proceedings. If it hadn’t perhaps many witnesses would have refused to testify eg that they saw a man running around with a machine gun

  • tacapall

    It will be interesting to hear what evidence the PSNI have in this case. If they are charging him with membership based on his attendance at talks in London with the British government all those years ago at charging him with murder based on the memoirs of two dead people. Two people who it can be argued had mental health problems and dependant on alcohol at the time of their confessions then this move is another case of perfedious albion rewriting history. I hear a certain other person was mentioned around 100 times more on these tapes yet he is free as a bird just like all those paratroopers, RUC officers who colluded in the murder of innocent people, those RUC officers who armed loyalist gangs who then used these weapons to murder. We all want justice but not selective justice, not justice based on playing to the unionist gallery.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Didn’t take very long for the whataboutery defence to be introduced. Seems for some only certain crimes of the past should be investigated.

    ‘His only crime was nationalism’ as some might have it.

    cynic2 is correct with regards to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. It was clearly stated before, during and after the process that the material gathered could not be used for criminal investigations.

    Perhaps that’s why a certain para politician’s alleged relationship with a machine gun on the day has not resulted in his collar being felt by the peelers?

    Indeed the police have had to resort to placing billboards around Derry calling for witnesses to come forward so underwhelmed have they been by those wishing to help them with their enquiries.

  • Pete Baker

    Adds The “official investigation” was of course by the NI Police Ombudsman, and was rejected by the Provisional IRA at the time. See also Mick’s post – “The IRA, Human Rights and the McConville case“.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Because the law that set up the Inquiry made it clear that evidence given in the Inquiry couldn’t be used in later criminal proceedings.”

    “cynic2 is correct with regards to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. It was clearly stated before, during and after the process that the material gathered could not be used for criminal investigations.”

    None of the evidence to which I refer above came from either two tribunals.

    All the evidence relates to statements given to officers immediately after the shootings, statements made since freely in the media by the paras themselves and their officers, statements made in their thousands by witnesses including policemen, doctors, clergymen, lawyers, parliamentarians and journalists, as well as medical, forensic and ballistics tests all carried out in the immediate aftermath of the shootings and literally hours of video, audio and written evidence.

    In other words without taking one line of testimony from the respective inquiries there is a veritable tsunami of eye-witness, forensic and ballistic evidence to bring charges against at least a dozen paras in Bloody Sunday.

    Few murder inquiries have ever been so overwhelmed with so much freely given evidence.

    Apparently geriatric radio stars can be convicted of feeling up teenagers forty years ago but the brightest minds in the police and legal establishment haven’t a clue what happened on the streets of Derry in broad daylight in front of the world’s media on January 30 1972.

  • http://www.organizedrage.com/ Mickhall

    Harry

    You now how this works in warfare, if you kill tens of thousands and more, you become a statesman or national hero, but if you only manage to knock off a dozen or so you spend your life looking over your soldier.

    As Tommy Atkins the world over know only too well, the further down the food chain they are the more likely it is they will be nominated to take the fall.

    Rule of law my arse!

  • Pete Baker

    Update From the PA report in the Irish Times

    Ivor Bell (77) was refused bail when he appeared before a district judge in Belfast accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.

    The court heard police moved against the pensioner on the basis of an interview he had given researchers compiling a Troubles archive at Boston College in America – tapes a US court ordered to be handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

  • Pete Baker

    And In a welcome move, Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, has suddenly discovered what due process means

    In a statement today, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said:

    “Due process prevents me from commenting on the recent charging of a man in relation to the death of Jean McConville. This is now a matter for the courts.

  • Lionel Hutz

    An interview that he himself gave! An admission?!

  • Mick Fealty

    Test case?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Nothing particularly testing about that. The answer’s Harry’s query. All the forensics in the world can’t beat a solid confession

  • Dixie Elliott

    The only witnesses to the murder and disappearance of Jean McConville, who have gone public, have pointed the finger at Gerry Adams yet someone else gets arrested and charged while he, Adams, appears to be a protected species.

    Also this comes at a time when Ivor Bell was acting as the election manager of an Independent Candidate standing in the forthcoming elections.

    It looks to me like a case of another attempt to put the frighteners on any Republican, outside of the acceptable Adamsite camp, who wants to achieve an electoral mandate.

  • Harry Flashman

    “All the forensics in the world can’t beat a solid confession.”

    Balderdash, “confessions” are frequently thrown out of court as they are often the most worthless piece of evidence provided. Check out the history of Northern Ireland where hundreds of “confessions” were dismissed without forensic support.

    Even were it the case the Paras would be bang to rights, they all made clear statements to their officers immediately after the shootings in which they said they fired “aimed shots”. Match those aimed shots up with the ballistics tests and the forensic and autopsy reports on the bodies of the dead, unarmed, fleeing victims, along with witness testimony and video evidence and bingo! you’ve an unshakeable case. Most prosecutors would think all their Christmases had come at once if they got a case as easy as that.

    But apparently so desperate are the police for a clue in this totally baffling unsolved crime they had to put up billboards in Derry seeking information about what happened. It’s a complete mystery I tell ya.

    Here’s a suggestion; collar Col. (ret) Derek Wilford and half a dozen of his former NCOs, bring them down to the local nick and question them under caution, you know the way ordinary suspected criminals are treated, and ask them what they know.

    If they were wise they’d reserve the right to remain silent of course, but at least it would be a start. Again however the finest minds in the Crown Prosecution Service and Scotland Yard have never considered this blindingly obvious idea.

  • babyface finlayson

    Bell’s solicitor said, according to the BBC report;
    ‘ the case against him was based on the Boston College tapes and “the evidence was not credible”.’
    It is hard to see how his own interview given freely could be dismissed as not credible.

  • Morpheus

    I amno legal expert by any means BF but a cursory Google search brought me to this from the Crown Prosecution Service website:
    https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/a_to_c/confession_and_breaches_of_police_and_criminal_evidence_act/


    “Unreliable confessions were given a broad interpretation by the Court of Appeal in R v Fulling. This included:

    Confessions obtained as the result of an inducement – for example a promise of bail or a promise that a prosecution would not arise from the confession;
    Hostile and aggressive questioning;
    Failure to record accurately what was said;
    Failure to caution;
    Failure to provide an appropriate adult where one is required;
    Failure to comply with the Code of Practice in relation to the detention of the accused – for example a failure to allow sufficient rest prior to an interview;
    Failure of the Defence Solicitor or Appropriate Adult to act properly – for example by making interjections during interview which are hostile to the defendant. It is important that prosecutors take into consideration whether confessions can be adduced to be reliable or not by the Courts.”

    Anyone know if the Boston Tapes were under caution?

    Another interesting section:

    “Unfairly Obtained Evidence

    Section 78 PACE enables a court to exclude evidence which would otherwise be admissible against a defendant on the basis it would be unfair to adduce it . The nature of the courts discretion was explained by Lord Lane C.J. in the case of R v Quinn Crim L.R. 581:

    “…The function of the judge is therefore to protect the fairness of the proceedings, and normally proceedings are fair if… all relevant evidence [is heard] which either side wishes to place before [ the court], but proceedings may become unfair if, for example, one side is allowed to adduce relevant evidence which, for one reason or another, the other side cannot properly challenge or meet.”

    Prosecutors should note that each case will turn on its own facts, and that the courts have resisted attempts to fetter their discretion – see for example R v Samuel 1988 Q.B 615 where the court held that because of the infinite variety of circumstances, it was undesirable to attempt any general guidance as to how the discretion under section 78 should be exercised.

    Challenges to the Fairness of Evidence

    Areas where successful challenges may be made include where evidence has been obtained as a result of:

    Breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights;
    Breaches of the Codes of Practice issued under PACE;
    Bad faith on the part of the police.”

    Interesting stuff

  • babyface finlayson

    Morpheus
    Thanks for that.
    It does not seem that the first of those scenarios would apply since it was not a confession in the legal sense.
    Whether it could be considered unfairly obtained is arguable.
    But as the solicitor called it “not credible” rather than ‘not admissible’ I am curious to see where they are going with that.
    I am sure I am even less of a legal expert than you, but it seemed a strange choice of words to me.

  • Morpheus

    Obtained in bad faith would be different from unfairly obtained, as a guess.

    This interview was given on the premise that it would only be released after his death so using it now could be construed as bad faith on the part of the police. But the caution bit will be hard to get around

  • tacapall

    “It is hard to see how his own interview given freely could be dismissed as not credible”

    What part dont you get about Ivor Bells interview to the Boston college where he consistently denies involvement in Jean McConvilles murder. The case against him is based on evidence gathered from interviews given by others to the Boston college.

  • Morpheus

    Where does it say that tac?

    Just a suggestion but you might consider the odd link and reference or 2 for these theories of yours.

  • babyface finlayson

    tacapall
    “What part dont you get.. ”
    “The court heard police moved against the pensioner on the basis of an interview he had given ”
    That part. Rude fellow.

  • tacapall

    What theories would that be Morpheus that Ivor Bell in his oral submission to Boston college denies any involvement in the death of Jean Mc Conville or that the British government is playing games with the peace process and further solidifying republican perceptions that the British can never be trusted to honour its commitments or word.

    Babyface yes thats correct concerning his membership of the IRA.

  • Morpheus

    Yes tac, theories like that. The odd link or reference wouldn’t go amiss

  • Reader

    Morpheus: This interview was given on the premise that it would only be released after his death so using it now could be construed as bad faith on the part of the police.
    Only if you think the police have a responsibility to keep promises made by somebody else. And that seems ridiculous to me.

  • Morpheus

    It will be Downey all over again Reader. The Judge will throw it out as an abuse of process, republicans will say ‘I told you so’, unionists will be ‘incandescent’ and ‘apoplectic’ with rage, Peter Robinson will probably threaten to resign, Arlene Foster, Jeffrey Donaldson and Deputy Dawd will come on Nolan to say that it proves there’s a SF plot afoot so vote DUP blah blah blah and the NI Political train keeps on rolling…

    …and all the while the McConville children will not be any closer to getting justice for what happened to their family.

  • Reader

    Morpheus: It will be Downey all over again Reader. The Judge will throw it out as an abuse of process, republicans will say ‘I told you so’…
    You seem to have made a study of this. What part of the Downey judgement is relevant to protecting the blushes of Ed Maloney and preventing a couple of Boston academics from getting a rap over the knuckles from the Dean?

  • Reader

    Oh yes, and the traditional PPS revolving door may well kick in, as usual : the one where a quarter of the population think that the arrest was political, a quarter think that the release was political, a quarter think that both were political and the rest of us think that the PPS is a collection of incompetent muppets.
    But it still won’t be anything to do with PSNI ‘bad faith’.

  • Charles_Gould

    Lets remember that this is a *very* serious offence, and one that left a lot of children without a mother.

    Let us put the victims first.

  • Morpheus

    No Reader, I have not made a study of this. I just took a few seconds on Google to see if there is anything that we can learn for ourselves.

    It could be that Bell is guilty – I don’t know the man from Adam, never even heard of him until last week – but that is for the courts to decide and regardless of how heinous the crime is and what our feelings are towards the man things have to be done properly and by-the-book so if he is found guilty he doesn’t walkaway on a technicality. The Downey case was not by-the-book and he walked causing untold upset and distress to the families of the victims and the same thing can’t be allowed to happen again.

    Bad faith will of course come into it. Any Barrister worth his salt will argue that he would not have made the tapes had he known that they would be used to incriminate him plus they weren’t made under caution from what I can make out so if he continues to deny any involvement without any physical evidence the PPS’s hands are tied. But I am no legal expert and I don’t have access to all the information