IRA wrongful convictions campaign begins

The redoubtable correspondent Henry McDonald has a notable scoop with his report that “up to 300 IRA members are to attempt to have their convictions overturned and sue the British government for compensation for wrongful imprisonment… The move follows the success of Danny Morrison, Sinn Féin’s former publicity director, in overturning his 1991 conviction for the false imprisonment of IRA informer Sandy Lynch a year earlier”.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission recommended that his case go back to the court of appeal, which this summer cleared him.

My trouble is, I can find no trace that this final move has actually been made by the Court of Appeal. If it has, it appears to have been kept mighty quiet. Given Morrison’s profile, this seems unlikely. I’m quite prepared to have egg on my face if proved wrong but it would be good to clear it up. It is of course known, as Slugger noted last month, that the Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the case back to the Court of Appeal. Some may believe that this move virtually amounts to acquittal as an established fact, but I doubt if the Appeal Court judges would agree.

However, assuming the Morrison conviction is finally overturned, will it prompt an avalanche of successful compensation awards in cases linked to information from Stakeknife and other informer sources?

As such evidence was not directly admissible, presumably the grounds for overturning the convictions would have to be more widely based. So stand by for notable legal wrangles.

The timing of this story could suggest we’re seeing a major gambit in a game to clean up the IRA’s image to enhance Sinn Fein’s fitness for government including the devolution of policing and justice and buttress their threat to pull the plug if they don’t get their way.

  • Sam Flanagan

    Have you heard of any other shock revelations that may be in the pipeline Brian?

  • ‘a gambit to clean up the IRA’s image’?

    Is it not more likely that the sight of hundreds of convicts being acquitted, many of them having already accepted IRA prisoner status while inside and publicly supported the armed struggle, that victims groups and most political parties would react with horror and indict the IRA of irredeemable hypocrisy?
    And what of compensation was paid out to so many after they had been cleared? The case for massive funding for victims would become irresistible. You can have the paramilitaries being the only ones getting huge compo.
    Further: if all these cases are coming – and add on the unfinished inquests of alleged shoot to kill cases – then there is no way to avoid a massively expensive legal process to inquire into the past.
    Either the money will go on those cases or on an alternative but expenditure will not be avoidable.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    there’s no such thing as an innocent IRA member, should have lot them rott in jail where they belonged.

  • ulsterfan

    Many years ago I heard a 15 yr old youth on the Shankill say that his ambition was to be an ex paramilitary member.
    I didn’t understand then what he meant but I do now.
    Tax payers be prepared to dig deep into the pockets.
    I wonder is this campaign sponsored by the Bar Council or Law Society.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “Is it not more likely that the sight of hundreds of convicts being acquitted, many of them having already accepted IRA prisoner status while inside and publicly supported the armed struggle, that victims groups and most political parties would react with horror and indict the IRA of irredeemable hypocrisy? ”

    Accepting IRA prisoner status and supporting the armed struggle are not, so far as I’m aware, criminal offences.

    As for being “indicted of irredeemable hypocrisy”, do you think they give a flying fuckk? And if a person genuinely believes and can prove his innocence – whether republican or loyalist – should they not be allowed to try?

    Maybe the issues of cost and the unpalatable sight of people trying to have their reputations restored and their names cleared should be a matter of concern for the police officers who secured the erroneous convictions. Just a thought.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “The redoubtable correspondent Henry McDonald has a notable scoop….” Jesus Tittyfucking Christ!

  • jone

    Henry, alas, has not got this quite right.

    The reason Brian can’t find any evidence of Danny being cleared is it hasn’t tecnically happened yet.

    While the PPS have informed the Court of Appeal that it will not oppose the latest appeal the actual hearing hasn’t taken place. It’s scheduled for October 3.

  • Nauseated

    This process has already been quietly under way for some time. Last year in Derry two prominent Republicans, men who were fully active in an IRA cell which almost brought full scale sectarian warfare to the streets of Derry in the mid 1970’s, men who prior to their appeal had never denied their involvement in that campaign, indeed were very proud of their roles, suddenly discovered after 30 years that they had in fact been entirely innocent all along and had been fitted up by the Branch.

    Their gloating arrival in a city centre bar the evening of their acquittal must have been only slightly marred by the number of patrons who well remembered their activities when friends, colleagues and neighbours were being assassinated weekly in a dreadful reign of terror and who choose not to join them in celebratory drinks and discussions on how they were going to spend their compo.

  • lorraine

    if somebody, man or woman has been wrongfully convicted, irrespective of their background, history or whatever, they deserve to be allowed to challenge those convictions.

    did margaret thatcher herself not once say in a parliamentary statement in 1979 that sir anthony blunt couldn’t be tried as a spy because the only evidence against him was his confession and in a democracy people are entitled to a fair trial where conviction on a statement alone would be wrong!

    come on chaps: british justice for british citizens!!!

  • Brian Walker

    Malachi, you raise a major issue:

    “…. if all these cases are coming – and add on the unfinished inquests of alleged shoot to kill cases – then there is no way to avoid a massively expensive legal process to inquire into the past.
    Either the money will go on those cases or on an alternative but expenditure will not be avoidable.”
    If mass appeals are actually begun, they will severely damage the various “Dealing with the Past strategy which imply a “no fault” principle with discretionary compensation, and avoiding the courts.

    The legal implications are well beyond my meagre knowledge but taking the litigation route must threaten to undermine the Eames/Bradley process, the fragile Victims Commission and even the Historic Cases review.

    The consensual approach to dealing with the past could only be resumed -if at all – if in some kind of class action, the issue of informant evidence was somehow defused. The Morrison case bodes ill for such an outcome. But like many others, I would welcome a COOL, DISPASSIONATE AND WELL INFORMED discussion of the possible implication of Morrison. so Sluggerites in the Bar library, please offer is your expertise.

  • Dympna

    Quelle surprise!

    What is it with these guys and lasses?
    Is it not remarkable how many never did anything …taking a cue I suppose from Gerry (never even a member) and Martin (never did nuffing guv). I am left wondering who was left to do all the nasty killing stuff?

    The only one I can recall was Vincent Kearney who admitted on TV to killing a postman, who was in the UDR, on either his own or someone else’s doorstep.

    What a shower of spineless opportunistic wasters. Ask yourself …would I employ one?

  • shacked

    surely you don’t mean bbc ni’s home affairs correspondent?

  • shacked

    surely you don’t mean bbc ni’s home affairs correspondent?

  • Doctor Who

    It was for their accents, low standing, lack of Bratishness and culture these IRA men where sent to jail. Not for all the murders they done.

  • truth and justice

    Waist of Time and a waist of mon ey catch yourselves on boys the past is the past and you cant change it.

  • Peter Brown

    Lorraine

    Blunts immunity was in exchange for a full confession – ironically the exact opposite of what is happening here rathet than exactly the same. There is spin and then there are downright lies….

    Which is almost as ironic as the Republican movment supporting appeals based on the methods allegedly used to extract false confessions. Dishonest Bob and others would have us believe that our little local difficulty was a war although the definition he uses rather than some internationally accepted norm is one he makes up himself (something he appears to have in common with Lorraine…) but apart from the fundamental problems with the lack of uniform and targetting of civilians one of the main diffculties with having the Republican campaign (and this applies even more to loyalists in the interests of even handedness and this post following and expensive process of assessment is therefore deemed to be s.75 compliant) was thir treatment of POWs. The problem being of course that they didn’t treat captives as POWs at all they almost without execption tortured them and then shot them.

    They then claimed more often than not that they hade made full confessions of their crimes against the Republican movement – now there are confessions which are dubious….ask the families of Frank Hegarty, Eamonn Collins and Jean McConville about the right to a fair trial and they’ll be able to tell you more than Danny Morrison ever will – wasn;t he allegedy sitting in judgment on Sandy Lynch when arrested?

  • Rory

    “I would welcome a COOL, DISPASSIONATE AND WELL INFORMED discussion of the possible implication of Morrison.”

    Do CALM DOWN, Brian. Such discussion will surely take place as each individual case that might be appealed comes before the appropriate court as it must if each individual appeal is to proceed. There is no precedent that I know of for a class action to be brought as a way of appealing against a series of individual convictions nor do I know of any legal contrivance whereby such an action might even be considered. Can you think of any?

  • Comrade Stalin

    What I’d like to understand is : does the decision of the PPS not to get involved in the appeal mean that the appeals court will automatically quash the conviction ?

  • Brian Walker

    Rory, I don’t feel in the least abashed by the miasma of legal knowledge you display which may or may not be justified. I calmly asked an honest question in CAPS, to try to divert a lava flow of invective on the topic. Not that I particularly mind the invective, just that it doesn’t apply to my question. Of course class actions are not brought to overturn convictions. As I understand it, class actions are increasingly used in similar civil claims including claims for damages consequent upon convictions being overturned. The former is a criminal appeal, the latter civil action. Another device is the single definitive judgment which lays out parameters and allows lawyers in similar cases to decide whether entering a claim is viable. A judge may say whether he regards his judgment as having wider application or not. I would welcome more detailed information about the legal options in this situation. My request is entirely meaningful.

  • Please correct me if I am wrong, but hasn’t Morrison’s 1991 conviction just been referred back to the Court of Appeal, not been overturned by it.

    If so, the redoubtable Henry McDonald turns out to be just his usual rumor-mongering self.

    Morrison’s conviction for kidnapping Sandy Lynch was a one-off if there ever was one – i. e., he being made the fall guy for the dirty work done by
    ‘Steak knife’, especially the killing of Joe Fenton, in order to keep his identity unknown for the benefit of British securocrats, especially the FRU, and thanks to the usual political justice handed out by Sir Brian Hutton aka Lord Hutton, author of the infamous Hutton Report on the murder of Dr. David Kelly.

    If Morrison gets his conviction overturned, it will be a miracle which no former colleague of his in the Provos will be able to take advantage of in any jurisdiction.

    News must really be in short supply in Northern Ireland for such wild speculation to get any kind of hearing.

  • Brian Walker

    Trowbridge, I refer to 7 from Jone:
    “The reason Brian can’t find any evidence of Danny being cleared is it hasn’t technically happened yet.

    While the PPS have informed the Court of Appeal that it will not oppose the latest appeal the actual hearing hasn’t taken place. It’s scheduled for October 3.

    I leave your speculation on the reasons for the likely overturning of Morrison’s conviction to yourself – other than to add that I don’t necessarily agree; it may have wider application. That’s what I’m asking.

  • UFB

    ‘But apart from the fundamental problems with the lack of uniform and targetting of civilians one of the main diffculties with having the Republican campaign (and this applies even more to loyalists in the interests of even handedness and this post following and expensive process of assessment is therefore deemed to be s.75 compliant) was thir treatment of POWs. The problem being of course that they didn’t treat captives as POWs at all they almost without execption tortured them and then shot them’

    Unfortunate then, in the interests of even handedness of course, that you forgot to include the MRF and the SAS who were known for their compassionate treatment of prisoners, (just look at Gibraltar, Whiterock bookies etc). And who could ever forget that nice Mr Nairac who always operated in British Army uniform.

    Oh do piss off hypocrite

  • But if the convictions were unsafe, possibly being based on evidence tampering or “interrogation in depth”, aren’t they rightly open to challenges (whatever the motivations of those taking the cases)? More at Torture allegations return to haunt legal process on Belfast and Beyond.