Four plead guilty to abducting Bobby Tohill

The court case against the four men accused of attempting to kidnap dissident Republican Bobby Tohill, on 20th February 2004, actually began on Monday.. and ended today in Belfast Crown Court when, as the BBC report, they pleaded guilty.. and were released on bail until sentencing in the New Year with two further charges against the men – of false imprisonment and unlawful wounding – to remain on the books of the court.. UTV report here.. it’s worth noting that, although none of the available reports today mention the organisation involved, the Provisional IRA were named as being behind the attempt at the time, by the Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, and in the 1st IMC Report.The four who pleaded guilty are named in reports as Gerard McCrory, 33, from Dermott HIll Road, Harry Fitzsimmons, 36, from Spamount Street, Liam Rainey, 31, from New Barnsley Crescent and Thomas Tolan, 34, from Ballymurphy Parade.

From the 1st Independent Monitoring Commission report

5. INCIDENT IN BELFAST ON 20 FEBRUARY 2004

5.1 We have examined a considerable number of individual incidents, but we have paid particular attention to the incident which took place in Belfast on 20 February 2004. This is for a number of reasons. Its timing was highly significant and it has been very widely seen as having a major impact on events in Northern Ireland. By its method it was intrinsically serious, though we recognise that its direct consequences were less severe than all too many other incidents. Moreover, both Governments have asked us specifically to examine the incident in the context of our first report.

5.2 The facts of the incident can be stated very briefly. At about 17.45 on 20 February 2004 four masked men entered a bar called Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Street, Belfast. They were all dressed in white forensic suits , balaclavas and surgical gloves. The four men very severely beat Robert Tohill who was in the bar. They then dragged him from the bar to the vehicle in which they had arrived and had parked nearby. They forced him into the vehicle and the five left in it, one of their number driving.

5.3 A member of the public who had seen the incident had meanwhile telephoned the police, and there happened to be a PSNI patrol vehicle in the vicinity. The two officers in this vehicle intercepted the vehicle containing Robert Tohill and arrested four men. The names of those arrested are Harry Fitzsimmons, Gerard McCrory, Liam Rainey and Thomas Tolan.

5.4 The four arrested men were subsequently remanded in custody on charges of causing grievous bodily harm, unlawful imprisonment and the possession of items likely to be of use to terrorists. Charges of membership of a proscribed organisation were withdrawn at first remand.

5.5 The cases of the arrested people are sub judice. In no circumstances should they be prejudiced. Article 13 of the International Agreement specifically requires the Commission to do nothing which would either prejudice a legal case or place anybody’s safety at risk. We are therefore heavily constrained in what we may say. We can however, address two key questions: was this incident the work of a paramilitary organisation and if it was, which one?

5.6 We have received information from a number of official and unofficial sources. We have carefully reviewed all of this material. We are conscious that we are not bound by the strict rules of evidence and that the material has not been subject to the testing one could expect in a criminal trial. We do however believe this material, taken as a whole, indicates that the operation was one planned and undertaken by the Provisional IRA.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘it’s worth noting that, although none of the available reports today mention the organisation involved, the Provisional IRA were named as being behind the attempt at the time, by the Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, and in the 1st IMC Report.’

    It is worth noting that Orde tells the IMC and the IMC prints it.

  • Henry94

    I thought this had turned out to be some kind of family dispute. Or was that a different case?

  • fair_deal

    No a row within the republican ‘family’.

    One case proven despite republican denials hopefully the McCartney family will get justice next.

  • Henry94

    If indeed it does turn out to be IRA related it may be time to look at some kind of early release scheme in the context of decommissioning.

    It would encourage other organisations to follow suit.

  • Mickhall

    If indeed it does turn out to be IRA related it may be time to look at some kind of early release scheme in the context of decommissioning.

    It would encourage other organisations to follow suit.

    Posted by Henry94 on Dec 13, 2005 @ 10:04 PM

    God loves a tryer Henry.

  • crat

    It is interesting to note that all the charges mentioned on the IMC report did not yield a single conviction.

    “The four arrested men were subsequently remanded in custody on charges of causing grievous bodily harm, unlawful imprisonment and the possession of items likely to be of use to terrorists. Charges of membership of a proscribed organisation were withdrawn at first remand.”

    All that text and none of it related to what the men actually ended up facing in court.

    The report was used to support many things. It made judgements based on evidence (if it existed) that could not stand the limited rigours of even the British judicial process.

    The IMC report on this is pretty worthless as they clearly only considered charges that were unfounded and unsubstantiated.

  • SOT

    I thought Jimmy Sands had confessed to that crime months ago.

  • Pete Baker

    All that text and none of it related to what the men actually ended up facing in court.

    Not entirely accurate, crat – from the UTV report

    Following their guilty pleas to the kidnapping, prosecuting QC John Creaney said that under the circumstances, he would ask that two further charges of false imprisonment and unlawful wounding “should remain on the books of the court, not to be proceeded with without leave of the court or the Court of Appeal”.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Yeah, ‘abduction’ isn’t a serious offence, really…

    Looks like a plea bargain to me, so expect a light sentence (if any) and stiff warning from the judge in the New Year, with unionists going apoplectic in the background.

    Nothing must upset the process.

    Next year is critical, ao the Govt doesn’t want there to be any more court cases or ‘surprises’ to intervene in the run-up to devolution.

    Stormontgate, the Haddock trial, Rogan, the LVF trial of the Cornish exiles that seems to have disappeared (just as the group disbands), OTRs… this is the ‘tying up loose ends’ part of the process that pre-empts justice and policing being devolved (timetabled for 2007).

    You are all getting a clean slate for Christmas from Santa Blair, whether you want it or not.

  • crat

    Pete,

    In my world ‘remaining on the books’ and ‘facing in court’ are very different things.

    Anything substantive to say about my points?

  • Pete Baker

    this is
    the ‘tying up loose ends’ part of the process that pre-empts justice and
    policing being devolved (timetabled for 2007).

    Much as I tend to agree with your assessment of the intent of those behind these events, Gonzo.. the problem is the bargaining itself undermines the justice and policing that they expect to be able to devolve.

  • Pete Baker

    crat

    you didn’t make any points.. you merely made assertions.

  • crat

    Pete,

    My point is the IMC made assertions.

    They failed to become anything other than assertions as they could not get past even a British judiciary.

    That was my point. What is yours?

  • Pete Baker

    If you’re still referring to the paragraph you previously quoted, crat, then all but one of the charges referred to are represented in those faced by the individuals at court – see Gonzo’s comment also on this point.

    The paragraph you quote isn’t an assertion, by the way, it’s a statement of the facts at the time the accused were remanded.

  • aquifer

    Tohill says: (Sunday World last week) that the IRA campaign was a waste of life, and he might know, having been an active member since his early teens after a relative was killed by loyalists. He wants to write a book about it all, without exposing former comrades to prosecution.

    He is a really dangerous subversive now.

    I hope his editors do not turn up wearing balaclavas.

  • pete,
    “the problem is the bargaining itself undermines the justice and policing that they expect to be able to devolve”
    I understand where you’re coming from.
    The realist in me says Justice is a Game, it’s played by both sides. Was it ever different?
    The upshot is, Brit Gov’t want shot of the problem of norn iron.
    It’s been a complete disaster.
    So you can hardly blame them can you?
    I’m not suggesting you were; but I’m still sticking to the the bottom-line, that we have to get the DUP out of nappies.
    I believe that’s the Tony Blair line,
    I just don’t have the diplomatic skills to dress it up in fine words 😉

  • Pete Baker

    I’m not suggesting you were; but I’m still sticking to the the bottom-line, that we have to get the DUP out of nappies.

    Playing that game, s-l, amounts to nothing more than playing party politics with what needs to be an adherence to a fundamental standard of any democracy.

    That’s the basis of my objection to what’s happening here.. not just in terms of the DUP as you have described it, but with SF, and the British Labour Party, and with Fianna Fail and the PDs, and with any party that abandons the rule of law for, what is nothing less than, political expediency.

    There are basics that we ignore at our peril.. at the minute, and for some time, no-one in the NIO line-up appears to be concerned about that.

  • pete
    I can’t fault your logic or your moral concerns.
    But Blair’s logic is:
    Its your effin’ problem guys ( norn iron politicians/ people ), sort it out,.
    If it’s all done slowly slowly, every difficult issue e.g OTR’s, alleged spy-rings etc
    will drag the process out for years. Not good.
    DUP would be happy with that….saying that is not playing party politics in my view.
    The worry is norn iron will never grow up and take responsibility for itself.
    Do you agree that unionism doesn’t want to let go of daddy’s hand ( brit gov’t ), and face upto its past/present and future alone?
    That FEAR is more destructive then these politically expedient shenanigans IMHO.

  • Pete Baker

    s-L

    It’s not my concern what Tony Blair wants to do.. far from it.

    What I’m trying to set out is what his actions now will result in.. and the danger that will follow for this society as a whole.

    The temporary party political concerns that you seem so interested in don’t apply.

  • Mickhall

    A couple of points I feel it is important to mention, when Mr Tohill was kidnapped and thrown into the back of the van, he believed his life was forfeit, so this was not a trivial event. Secondly whilst the man may be somewhat of a loose cannon, he does not lack balls. Unlike some Republicans he continues to refuse to accept the writ of the British legal system in Ireland, thus he refused to testify against his kidnappers.

    It looks like his opinion of the legal system as it deals with Republicans is correct, as in this case it looks very much like the ‘law’ is simply being used as an extension of the Viceroys will.

  • pete
    “What I’m trying to set out is what his actions now will result in.. and the danger that will follow for this society as a whole.”
    That’s a hard judgement call.
    The greater danger of a continued political vacuum in norn iron, has somehow to be factored into the equation.
    Does the Means justify the ends?
    It’s one of those moral dilema’s.