Omagh’s last victim: justice

Mr Justice Weir’s pronouncement ensures there is to be no repeat of the sometimes hustled justice of the 1970s. Sean Hoey, after spending much of the last four and a half year in custody walked free of a Belfast courthouse this afternoon when Weir judged that the forensic evidence fell far short of anything that could be relied upon. It’s one of a series of strong judgements that augurs well for the independence of the judiciary. But what killed any possibility of bringing any of the real killers to justice was the lack of witness evidence, despite the widespread trauma and wholesale butchery of the day.

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  • Danny O’Connor

    Mick
    I believe that anyone who witholds information about any crime has an equal share in the responsibility.This has to be one of the worst cases of slaughter of the innocents ever on this island- I hope that those who committed this crime and those who were complicit will face justice this side of the grave -for the sake of the victim’s families-but they will face justice someday in a higher court.

  • heck

    Mick

    I don’t know if this is the right place to widen the subject of policing in nor Iron. The troubles are (hopefully!!!) over and we will have to admit that those who lost loved ones are never going to get closure. In a war “justice” is usually extracted from the vanquished by the victor and is not some neutral term. In Norn Iron no one won and justice is usually demanded from one side against the other. In the case of unionists justice means republicans being subjected to the wrath of the state for daring to use violence against it. For republicans it means holding the state to “the rule of law”-a concept they never applied to themselves in the last 40 years. As you have suggested before there may be a conspiracy from the leadership of the IRA and the Brits to draw a line under the past. ( I hope you are wrong). I am not even sure if this was a righteous judge or someone acting as an agent of the establishment-although I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

    However we have to decide on the type of policing we want to go forward with. If we assume that there is a line drawn under the past then we have to ask if the PSNI is the sort of police force we want to go forward with. We saw today that PSNI officers are willing to commit perjury and keep someone in jail for years without evidence and that the rot goes high up the management chain.

    In a “normal” Norn Iron can we be sure that the police will not “fix” someone they believe to be a drug dealer, rapist or house burglar? Will they just decide that they know who a child molester is and lie and fix evidence to put away some innocent person (like an innocent but retarded man)?

    Can we be sure that the intelligence arm of the police will not be conspiring with drug gangs to steer the distribution of drugs from “respectable” areas to poor communities?

    Can we be sure that the police will not frame someone to put away someone who is engaged in non violent but unpopular political activity?

    The prosecution service was clearly involved in this case. Are we convinced that the prosecution service is a neutral body acting as a check on the police and there to prevent unjustified prosecutions? (Not to issue “public interest” blocks on prosecutions which might embarrass the state?)

    I do not believe that the justice system in Nor Iron has reached the stage (yet?) where it can expect 100% support from the citizenry. Perhaps, when both communities can draw a line under the past, we can debate the type of policing we want and what the term “rule of law” really means.

  • Sam Hanna

    It is actually interesting to read Justice Weir’s actual judgment rather than the nonsense talked on Slugger.

    The first point from all the plastic paddies here that needs to be noted is that it is good to see BRITISH JUSTICE is alive and well in the judgment. It is a pity the Banana Republic is so many light years behind it!

    Secondly, Weir never stated that Hoey had no evidence against him – just that the evidential requirements were not conclusive to be absolutely sure. I find the fibres at the Mobile Home of Hoey something that he should have been forced to answer under oath.

    Thirdly, the DNA evidence has not cleared Hoey – it is just that the Keystone Cops way of gathering it leads him not to trust it.

    The indignity and callous behaviour of the Hoey family after the case simply delineates that they deserve nothing but contempt.

    Finally, when are we going to get any republican to admit they are guilty of anything!!! For 30 years they went around butchering to death their Protestant neighbours yet according to them everyone who was ever charged or convicted of murder (and it was a small percentage thanks to the complicity of silence by the local “good Catholic” populace – good to see the fruits of a loving “Christian” religion) was innocent.

  • McGrath

    Sam Hanna:

    Like a steaming dog turd, I’ll step around your obscenity.

  • McGrath

    Mick:

    The common denominator in all of this is poor police work. Rather than an examination of simply the Hoey case, there must be some wider examination of the process. At this stage questions have to be asked like:

    Is the police force afforded suitable resources?

    Is there some malign influence within/outside the force affecting its judgement?

    Does the current police force require reformatting?

    This is an appalling indictment if Northern Ireland. I’ve been watching it on the US news today, it doesn’t play well at all.

  • Aquifer

    So a conspiracy to murder innocents, intimidate us all, and not get caught has succeeded. Who are we to congratulate? Step out of the shadows, you self-obsessed butchers, and take a bow.

  • j

    4 1/2 yrs in jail and apparently everyone knew there was no case.

    What the hell is going on?

  • willowfield

    A few points.

    1. I can’t help feeling that a jury – less obsessed by legal technicalities, “due process”, etc. – would have been more likely to convict Hoey (and, indeed, other terrorists throughout the Troubles). It is ironic, then, that while the terrorists and their supporters like to complain about the “injustice” of Diplock, the system probably was and is very much to their advantage.

    2. Hoey was defended – presumably at taxpayers’ cost – by the extremely expensive barrister, “Orlando Bloom”. Is it right that so much public money has been spent defending this man? Is there no limit on the amount of legal aid afforded to suspects? Would a slightly-less-well-paid barrister not have sufficed?

    3. As Victor Barker mentioned – the PIRA “code of silence” – so revered by our Deputy First Minister – has meant that witness evidence was not forthcoming.

  • J Kelly

    Willowfield I believe that you have lost the run of yourself are really saying that even though there is no evidence, some of what was presented as evidence was “beefed up” and some didn’t stand scientific scrutiny that Sean Hoey should be in jail today. Just last night Crimewatch reported on a case were a man was convicted of a child killing in England spent 16 years in jail, released on appeal and died within a year. No one is served by this type of injustice only the tabloid reading baying for blood mobs. You cannot count truth and justice in monetary terms.

    I for one is gald to see Sean Hoey home for christmas with his family. That said I feel really sorry for those all the relatives especially at this time of year. The RIRA are first and foremost responsible, possibly MI5/Special Branch had a hand in there, but today the responsibility for todays trauma is the responsibility of the RUC/PSNI. This trial should never have come before the courts.

    When the law makers become the law breakers, then there is no law. If anything has damaged the new begining to policing its this case. The chief constable has to stand up and be counted if anyone is proved to have broken the law, or the rules someone needs to be held to account. The two officers who lied and if anyone knew they lied they should be sacked.

  • I wonder what Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary will make of this unholy mess? Will he in his infinite wisdom and zero tolerance of shoddy policework haul the Chief Constable of the force responsible for this hugely embarrassing investigation into the atrocious and tragic events of 15 August 1998 before him, strip him of his rank and send him out on traffic patrol in Donaghadee…..

  • J Kelly

    Ohyeah i agree with your sentiments on the relief the Hoey family must have felt that Sean was being freed and the expression of this relief but I have to disagree in how you discribe Mr Barker and Mr Gallagher. Ultimately they have lost the most not only their sons but now hope of justice. The Hoey family were not cheering in support of the Omagh bomb they were cheering in relief that their son was not going to spend the rest of his life in jail an innocent man.Your stupid language does nothing but portray supporters of truth and justice as headbangers, which i suspect you are.

  • Jo

    When will this ohyeah troll be banned once and for all?

  • ohyeah

    mr kelly, even when the judge had delivered his verdict barker and gallagher were still saying the lad hoey was guilty. why should they be allowed to victimise sean hoey further. having lost relatives in the 1998 bombing dosent give them the right to further finger an innocent man.
    and yes youre probably right about me being a headbanger, but that shouldnt stop me from voicing an opinion in whatever way i want. that just sounds like more sinn fein fascism from you, my friend

  • ohyeah

    jo, why should i be banned for having an opinion? fascism is flourishing in slugger today, i see.

  • Wilde Rover

    It is tragic that those behind Omagh will probably never be brought to justice.

    It seems the final stone in the field, like so many of its brothers, will be left to gather moss, its festering underbelly hidden from the light of day.

  • Twinbrook resident

    sam hanna..
    which part of not guilty do you not understand.Using your logic the Maguire, Guildford and Birmingham bombers nay innocent people framed by the British police force should never have been freed.
    As for killlings sure the IRA did it all sometimes wearing its uda face, its uvf face, its rhc,ulster resistence,etc, etc, etc, its british army face, its ruc/psni face…
    there is also a strong rumour that THEY killed kennedy and a former leading member was Jack the Ripper…

  • ohyeah

    im glad im not the only one who picked up on victor barkers appalling statement outside court http://u.tv/newsroom/indepth.asp?id=86654&pt=n
    i hope sean hoey takes him to the cleaners over this. sean hoey should be added to the list of innocent victims of the omagh bomb

  • cut the bull

    Mick

    But what killed any possibility of bringing any of the real killers to justice was the lack of witness evidence, despite the widespread trauma and wholesale butchery of the day.

    Why have the PSNI not interviewed Kevin Fulton, a man who said that he met with the man who was mixing the bomb which was to be planted in Omagh and that the bomb maker was also a British agent.

    If his allegations are true then he would be the vital prosecution witness that every one is searching for. Even if the PSNI is the least bit dubious about his claims you would think dtectives and the PPS would still want to talk to him, just to be sure.

    Now I understand that this fella fulton could possibly be a balloon talking shite, but you would think that due to a lack of witness evidence, surely some one would have considered asking him the relevant questions.

    Or maybe just like Scappaticci and Haddock the British or Special Branch agent came into the equation and therefore negated any genuine chance of ever finding out what happened that day.

  • willowfield

    J Kelly

    Willowfield I believe that you have lost the run of yourself are really saying that even though there is no evidence, some of what was presented as evidence was “beefed up” and some didn’t stand scientific scrutiny that Sean Hoey should be in jail today.

    The above sentence makes no sense and doesn’t appear to relate to any of the points which I made.

  • andy

    Mick
    What actual witneses were intimidated into not testifying? Is there any indication that witnesses would have been in a position to add anything? As stated above the peelers havent been falling over themselves to interview Fulton, who apparently knows something.

    No offence but this seems to be a line of argument that is designed to:
    a) Let the psni off the hook for their obvious forensic fuck-ups
    b) Seem to tangentially blame mainstream republicans for somehow failing to offer protection for witnesses

    I can understand Mr Baker coming out with this as he has felt immense loss- but in reality what does it mean? They force witnesses to testify? They say that if a witness is harmed b RIRA they will actually harm a member of RIRA?

  • willowfield

    Andy

    It’s simply not believable that there were no witnesses to this crime. Some people must know what happened.

  • andy

    Mick
    Actually I should probably make it clear that I was not having a pop at you with the above remark – I think you sensibly put it in context (you use the word “may”). Its jsut that I had heard the argument articualted a couple of times and suspected that those behind it had a wider political agenda

  • andy

    Willowfield
    That is a bit of a pointless statement, devoid of your usual precision. Certainly the conspirators would have been witnesses – but they don’t count I think in this example. Someone may have seen someone leaving a car etc – but not neccessarily.
    Other than that I thought it would be unlikely the bombers would have doen much in front of witnesses.

    The one big self-confessed witnesse, Fulton, doesnt even seem to have been interviewed. Also I dont even thik the PSNI are making a big deal of lack of witnesses coming forward (Although stand to be corrected)

  • Nevin
  • cut the bull

    The whole lack of investigation smells a bit like the fish stalls in the Belfast variety market.

    Why has no one involved in this investigation questioned Kevin Fulton its not as if they can’t get him, because he’s giving interviews to the press every other week.

    Furhtermore he must have told his handlers of having met with who ever he claimed was mixing the explosives and making the bomb.

    Therefore, should Fulton himself and any handlers he was working for be deemed as conspirator’s, due to the failure this evidence not being acted upon.

    It’s a murky business.

  • Only Asking

    I don’t think it was the lack of witness argument Mick, the main witness, as someone outside the court pointed out- fell down. The main witness was forensic science. The police botched it with their handling of it. They didn’t label it correctly, didn’t bag it correctly, and basically treated their ‘witness’ very shabbily indeed, and in turn were let down by it.

    I’m glad there is no hasty judgement here in this case as there was in other cases, no one member of any of the families I’m sure would want to see the wrong man go to jail for it. Having said that, these families MUST have had a lot of faith in the forensic evidence – as you would. After all who could argue with forensic science? Everybody now it seems.

    This will surely affect trials everywhere were forensic science is used in court without the evidence of a human witness to stand over it. And we all know how reliable human witnesses can be…??

    Shame on Ronnie Flannigan – the yellow coward who cannot even make a statement under these circumstances. He should at least resign.

  • willowfield

    That is a bit of a pointless statement, devoid of your usual precision. Certainly the conspirators would have been witnesses – but they don’t count I think in this example.

    Fair enough, but what, for example, about the conspirators’ families, etc. They will have known they were absent at certain times and perhaps have observed suspicious behaviour. Perhaps even they were confided in by the conspirators themselves.

  • steve

    Willowfield
    So now the fact your wife doesnt know where you are every minute of every day is evidence?

  • The Dubliner

    “But what killed any possibility of bringing any of the real killers to justice was the lack of witness evidence…” – Mick Fealty

    Well, you and Hugh Orde (and others) seem to be singing from the same hymm sheet on this spin. However, it is a failure of the police service, not a failure of the community, despite the propaganda in play to divert the blame from where it actually lies.

  • bill

    If we can assume for a moment that Mr Hooey was involved, he now falls under the double jeopardy rule and is free to give evidence without fear of prosecution.

  • Richard Walsh

    DISCREDITED LCN DNA MUST BE THROWN OUT

    Reacting to the verdict in the trial of South Armagh man Seán Hoey, RSF National Publicity Officer Richard Walsh stated on December 20th that no cases relying on the use of Low Copy DNA should proceed. He also remarked that many politicians had remained silent on the issue of an innocent man spending over four years in gaol.

    “The malicious prosecution of Seán Hoey from Jonesboro, Co. Armagh, has again shown that the Brits will stop at no lengths to punish those suspected of opposing English rule in Ireland” he said.

    “Seán Hoey was incarcerated for over four years before his final acquittal. Nearly a whole year lapsed between the conclusion of his trial and the verdict. The silence of those purporting to be the political representatives of the Nationalist community is deafening as to why an innocent man had to serve the equivalent of an eight-and-a-half year sentence on remand.

    “Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA testing was also shown during the course of the trial to be a wholly discredited technique. Its validity is not recognised in the vast majority of jurisdictions, nor were the English laboratories employed by both the Six and 26-County statelets accredited. Charges proffered against others arising out of LCN DNA ‘evidence’ must now be withdrawn, and convictions based on it must also be urgently reviewed.

    “All cases arising out of the events at Omagh – like so many others – have been based upon falsified and misleading evidence, and backed up by perjurers in both the RUC and the 26-County police. This was summed-up well by the mother of Seán Hoey, Rita: ‘The authorities North and South have held two separate trials but one witch-hunt,’ Mr. Walsh concluded.

  • Turgon

    This episode has been from begining to end a disaster. There are quite obviously very high emotions running around this case.

    I for one do not think that the Hoey family and supporters can really be condemned for being pleased that their relative / friend was found innocent. I also understand the anger form the families. It maybe shows that the media should be a little more circumspect in their attempts to give us vouyeristic pictures of the raw emotions in the immediate aftermath of a case like this.

    I was recently asked about forgiveness on this web site and the fact is that until yesterday the Omagh relatives believed (incorrectly as it turns out, but they believed) that Mr. Hoey was guilty. As such neither forgiveness nor instant acceptance of the verdict can be expected from the Omagh relatives. The comments of some of the relatives whilst inappropriate are possibly understandable when one remembers this.

    The police investigtion seems to have been a bit of a shambles. One thing to be said in the defence of the police is that low copy DNA was not avaliable in 1998 and as such a post hoc analysis is always very problematic.

    The possibility of a conspiracy seems most unlikely to me though I accept that I am biased on that. What I do think is very possible is that there was considerable political pressure for some sort of prosecution especially after the statements made by Tony Blair at the time and the ongoing (perfectly reasonable) campaign by some of the relatives.

    So indeed it looks most likely that there will be no justice for the Omagh dead within the circles of the world. In the next world; I for one have absolute confidence that justice will be done and be seen to be done. Not that that is much comfort to the relatives at this time.

    We must remember, however, that justice has been done in this life for relatively few of those murdered during the troubles. Apart from the Rising Sun, Shankill Fish shop and I think Loughlinisland I cannot off hand think of many multiple murders in the troubles for which there have been successful prosecutions. Certainly I think Omagh can join the list along with Le Mon, Darkley, Kingsmills, Teebane, Dublin, Monaghan, Enniskillen to name but a few as well of course as so, so many murders of people singly which whilst we may not remember them especially at this time of year; family and friends must think that there is an empty chair or a different life which might have been lived had someone not been murdered.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Turgon

    While respecting your beliefs, many people also believe in life before death. And I believev those without your faith should be afforded justice before death too – a rare commodity in Northern Ireland.

  • willowfield

    Steve

    So now the fact your wife doesnt know where you are every minute of every day is evidence?

    If a conspirator said he was home at a certain time and his wife said he wasn’t that would, indeed, be evidence.