Student’s prizewinning essay on rights and terrorism…

TIMOTHY McAtackney, a student at the University of Ulster has won second prize in the Times Law Awards 2006. Timothy’s essay on the subject of “Terrorism v human rights: where do you draw the line?” can be read here, and draws heavily on his knowledge of the successes and failures of UK security measures in Northern Ireland. He argues that new terrorist organizations should be dealt with by removing those who cannot be reasoned with from society in a transparent manner and by tempting away those on the fringes. One of the key paragraphs in Tim’s essay reads:

Transparency is the key to maintaining public faith in the justice system during a time of crisis. Imprisoning a man for glorifying terrorism, but not allowing the media to repeat his remarks because to do so would be self-defeating, and holding secretive judicial reviews of prolonged detentions would not inspire public confidence in the justice system.

What the government fails to appreciate when it says ‘Trust us with these powers’ is that many do not trust it, particularly within the Muslim community, and that the past thirty years are rife with examples of government abuse of terrorism laws.

It is a perverse type of justice that cannot be seen to be done, and as the threat facing the UK is long-term according to the government, it would eventually become a hallmark of the British system of justice. A war against terrorism is a war without end: rights that are signed away without a restraining context are effectively lost.

  • topdeckomnibus

    “Transparency of Justice”

    Coroners evidence, apart from suicide notes, is a public record.

    Without a copy you cannot mount an appeal against a verdict.

    Anyone can appeal against a verdict

    So why, in practice, can anyone not get a copy ?

    I argued, in my first inadmissible submission to European Court of Human Rights 1994, that Coroners Law is part of our Article 2 commitment to protect life. Since rights to life can only exist if they co-exist with certainty of proper, transparent sudden death inquiry.

    I am told that now the argument has been tidied up in a ruling by a High Court Judge that there is much legal circle approbation for the Judge’s insight.

    Obviously my interest arose because of the case (that got Martin going aaaaaargh)

    Someone asked what this case had to do with Irish politics. I thought the matter of Airey Neave and Co apparently enjoying the benefit of a non-transparent police no go area, achieved by unlawful operation by Special Branch, may have been of interest. And that this operation was in place before events like Bloody Sunday.

    “Reasoning with the unreasonable”

    I did many years working a second job as a bouncer. And any doorman knows that it is a waste of time trying to reason with the unreasonable. As such I have, apparently, only ever thrown people out of clubs (many years ago … now a wheezy old wreck) “For no reason at all”

    But the accusers never see the irony.

    However, the idea that the unreasonable will identify themselves by forming groups ….. a bit naieve.

    One aspect naivety is the presumption that government is rational or reasonable itself.

    I will give an example. In 1995 Guys Hospital backup generator failed. A child in post op ICU died when power was cut to life support.

    There was an inquest.

    An advance affidavit (from me) told HM Coroner that there had been an incident at Guys in 1987 and described the findings of an inquiry.

    The Coroner never called me in evidence because his Coroners Officer had determined that the equipment which failed in 95 was “Not of Petbow manufacture” (the 1987 incident was of Petbow equipment)

    An inquest returned a non blaming verdict of misadventure. (To enter on an adventure the outcome of which is necessarily uncertain). It seems to me that the uncertainty principle would not apply if it was the same manufacturer and the same equipment in both incidents.

    It took one hell of a lot of effort.

    The Head of Health and safety Executive health interest group backed the Coroners Officer …

    The Chief investigator South East HSE, Mr Sutton, backed the Coroners Officer.

    Then I found out who the manufacturer was that the Coroners Officer had named


    This stands for Mega Volt Amps (the power rating of the Petbow equipment)

    HSE then argued that since failures of backup generators are not designated as reportable by the Health and safety at work act that it is not their jurisdiction …. and refused to say anything further other than to admit they could pose no other technical explanation for the history than that put forward by me … sabotage.

    This position of HSE extended way beyond the Guys incidents. It also embraced the widespread matter of backup generator weld failures. Here my argument went into the significance of harmonics from fluorescent lighting changing the transient loading response so greater torques developed at the hospital site than developed in the factory load test bays. So HSE could pose no other technical explanation.

    But use a power to sieze service records without warrant ? Would not do it.

    The case for sabotage was compelling

    Corroborative confession
    expert evidence
    service records if siezed

    And it was a compelling case before Tony Blair entered into the Peace Agreement.

    There is no doubt that the Garland Plan of the IRA stated that there was a plan to conduct industrial sabotage.

    So why was sabotage not included as a weapon system for declaration aye or nay. If it was not IRA motivating our lad … then who was it ?

    General De Chasterlain reported this to the NI Secretary.

    In 1998 Tony Blair, whilst ignoring warnings that backup were unreliable either as general case (poor engineering standards) or specific case sabotage … he allowed Soviet weapons grade nuclear material to Dounreay for processing.

    July 98 power to the process fails. Backup power fails. Four billion pound nuclear decommissioning is triggered.

    Will there now be an increase of thyroid cancer and child leukemia in Scotland and neighbouring areas ?

    But as long as human rights lawyers are out there we can all sleep safer at night eh ?

  • Belfast Gonzo


    We ask all posters to try and stick to the topic being discussed. Hijacking every thread to the extent you’re doing just isn’t on, so for the sake of these debates continuing with some flow, I’m asking you to please stop.

  • topdeckomnibus

    The basis of the argument in the essay is IRRATIONAL.

    You could curtail the liberties of an unreasonable man for any multiple of 90 days … but that does not undo what he did yesterday.

    Tony Blair is also irrational.

    “There is no greater civil liberty than to be free from terrorist attack”.

    The reason that is irrational is that it is based on the future only idea as well. IE That terrorist cause and terrorist effect will both always lay ahead .. and hence be preventable by negotiation with or containment of the individual.

    I do not think it is hijacking to relate an essayist theory to real experience.

    I argued that there are two obstacles to justice, Attorney General public interest custodianship and Chief constable discretion.

    We brought about the change of police complaints law which came into force April 2004.

  • JB

    Are you insane?