The strange case of Ihab Shoukri…

THIS is very unusual. After six men arrested in combat uniforms during a planned UDA ‘show of strength’ were freed on a technicality (apparently they were not in a public place, even if the private place was licensed as a public bar), Mr Justice Coghlin has now adjourned the sentencing of UDA leader Ihab ‘Bailed Again’ Shoukri to take a week to reflect on “recent political progression”. Yes folks, that was political “progression” and not political “interference”, which is what this amounts to. Justice Coghlin has certainly changed his tune since 2004, when he used to question obvious political interference in a previous Shoukri case. Such “progress” by the UDA worth reflecting on is the fact that this terrorist group is still armed to the hilt and won’t be decommissioning – although if Shoukri has done as much as could be expected by the Government to emasculate a hardline element in the UDA, he can probably expect to walk free or face a seriously reduced sentence next week. Whether he then gets on a plane with a new identity or not is anyone’s guess.

  • BG, here’s the full quote:

    Defence lawyers argued that the bar was not a public place as the men had been in an upstairs function room.

    This fine distinction between rooms featured in a recent report from Bushmills …

  • joeCanuck

    We can only hope that the Chief Justice takes this magistrate aside and whispers in his ear as to what the law is all about.

  • Steve

    english watching over their pet killers?

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Joe

    I fear he has already had that whisper in the ear, hence this further showcasing of British justice.

    A strange, strange case indeed.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Regarding the “public” space issue, the seemingly ridiculous ruling made me wonder if it could have implications on the Smoking ban.

    The legislation there states that:

    “(7) Premises are “open to the public” if the public or a section of the public has access to them, whether by invitation or not, and whether on payment or not.”

    Which pretty clearly would include a pub’s upstairs function room. So either the law needs to be changed (and the judge presumably should have commented on this when ruling), or the decision needs to be challenged. I’d have happily sat on a jury in any case.

  • picador

    Some things just don’t surprise me and this is one of them. I wonder what MI5 are trying to cook up – another loyalist feud?

  • Rory

    Damian O’Loan makes a good point. Perhaps, if we can’t get him for anything else we could always hang Shoukri for smoking on forbidden premises. No judge would dare exercise mercy for that most heinous of modern crimes.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The loyalists have been relatively quiet lately. Although you have to wonder if it’s because these few chaps have been kept out of the way, or if they’re trying to avoid rocking the boat so that he’ll get out.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Well, I really can’t understand this.

    As far as I gather, the failure to convict depends on these provisions:

    “(2) A person commits an offence if he arranges, manages or assists in arranging or managing a meeting which he knows is—
    (a) to support a proscribed organisation,
    (b) to further the activities of a proscribed organisation, or
    (c) to be addressed by a person who belongs or professes to belong to a proscribed organisation.”

    “(4) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection (2)(c) in respect of a private meeting it is a defence for him to prove that he had no reasonable cause to believe that the address mentioned in subsection (2)(c) would support a proscribed organisation or further its activities.”

    It’s not that it wasn’t a public “place”, but that it wasn’t a public “meeting.” Now I know not just anyone gets in to these parties, but I can’t see how a “show of strength” isn’t designed for public consumption. And this comes after the acceptance of their defense that they had no idea it was to be in support of the UDA. Aren’t these places covered in flags especially for the evening?

    As regards Shoukri himself, surely he’s being tried for his crimes at the time of the arrest? And while irrelevant to the judgement, if anything, progress while Shoukri hasn’t been in position shows his negative influence.

    All in all, this isn’t inspiring my confidence.

  • Damian O’Loan

    “progress while Shoukri hasn’t been in position shows his negative influence”

    ought to have been

    would only show his negative influence

  • Turgon

    I am not a lawyer but my understanding is that excessively lenient sentences can now be appealed.

    If Mr. Shoukri is given a more lenient sentence on some spurious political grounds can anyone appeal this or is it only the PPS who can do such a thing?

  • joeCanuck

    excessively lenient sentences can now be appealed.

    I think that’s always been the case, Turgon.
    In a previous trial of the murderer of Attracta Harron, he received a 4 year sentence initially. The Crown appealed, successfully, and it was increased to 7 years. Didn’t save Attracta, unfortunately, since he was released after 3 1/2 years. That escape clause was removed, thankfully, about 3 weeks ago. Now no automatic release after serving only 50% of a sentence.

  • Turgon

    joe,
    Yes but what I mean is that can someone other than the Crown appeal the leniency of the sentence? Could a third party employ counsel to attempt to get a stiffer sentence if this one did turn out to be more lenient than expected?

  • joeCanuck

    Turgon’

    Don’t know. I would have thought not but there have been quite a few successful requests to have Judicial Reviews in recent years, that maybe anything is possible.
    You would likely have to identify yourself, however, and given past events, who would be willing to “bell the cat”?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I think the six who were freed are to have their non-convictions reviewed.

  • Ian

    Presumably the judge in Michael Stone’s case will also ‘reflect on recent political progression’ if he’s found guilty??