Non-jury trials “an essential option to ensure fair trials”

According to the current Criminal Justice Minister Paul Goggins, MP, the provision for non-jury trials, which was renewed in June 2009, will be subject to “a comprehensive review [], including a full public consultation, before it next falls to be renewed in July 2011.” By which time it may fall to the NI Assembly to decide whether to renew that [or similar] legislation. Do the parties here have an agreed position?

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  • sdelaneys

    “Do the parties here have an agreed position? ” Pete, is Spike Milligan writing for you now? “Do the parties here have an agreed position? ” sounds like a question he would ask.

  • mcclafferty

    Back in June 2009 the British government “unexpectedly” extended the legislation allowing for Diplock Courts for another two years. The Diplock system was supposed to have ended for good by July 2009. Some observers saw this as a blatant move to ensure that Gerry McGeough is “tried” under this notorious emergency legislation.

    A judge has now been selected to preside at Gerry’s trial. He is Ben Stevens, an Englishman who is renown as a pro-crown judge. Once again, the cards have been heavily stacked against Gerry. Not only is he being denied a Jury Trial but has also to contend with a single judge within the notorious Diplock system who is known to be extremely partial towards the prosecution.

    Gerry’s lawyers, meanwhile, have conceded that the entire case is being driven with a vindictiveness that is “beyond persecution”.

    This is just further proof that the Good Friday Agreement’s true purpose was to rescind Articles 2 and 3 of Ireland’s Constitution (which was done) and thus give Britain the sole control Occupied Ireland – permanently!

  • Lionel Hutz

    While I agree diplock trials are inappropriate, you’re assessment of Stevens is just ridiculous stereotyping. can you back up your assertion that he is renowned as a pro crown judge?

  • mcclafferty

    This appears to be the understanding of Gerry’s attorneys. I’m sure they would know as they are quite familiar with a majority of judges trying such cases in the north.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well, from what I know, he’s only been full time on the bench for 2 or 3 years. Its Stephens by the way.

    I’m sure Gerry’s representative’s wouldnt be saying anything different

  • Paddy

    Nothing new from the Orange state.

  • mcclafferty

    Comment #5
    And I’m sure the RUC/PSNI wouldn’t be saying anything different then what they have been saying about Gerry McGeough either. Let’s face it, I’d put more confidence in Gerry’s attorey’s evaluation of the gentlemen then I would the RUC or Crown.

  • Perhaps some of you might consider the still pertinent facts of my Trial, I had no jury -could not appeal against anyone to have it replaced. The consequence was that an adverse inference was drawn against me before I even got into the court room; the people who falsified and fabricated evidence against me where the same people who alleged that I was a risk to any jury. Perhaps some of you might like to read more, then see; http://www.christywalsh.com

    Incidently, my fresh appeal is this coming Monday (8th to 11th March 2010).

  • mcclafferty

    In a sensational front page story the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune newspaper has
    exposed a secret deal between the British government and Sinn Féin over the
    granting of “Royal Pardons” to dozens of “on-the-run” IRA members, due solely to
    their loyalty to the Sinn Féin leadership.

    The news broke just a day ahead of Gerry’s scheduled appearance before a Diplock
    Court in Belfast on a series of Troubles related charges, some dating back 35
    years.

    According to the report there exists a list of 216 on-the-runs. Gerry’s name is
    among them, but only 47 have been granted this special treatment. Several of
    these were wanted for killings and bombings carried out during the Troubles, but
    have now been given assurances that no charges will be brought against them.

    The news comes amid growing anger among nationalists in the East Tyrone area at
    the discrimination involved in Gerry’s case and the complete indifference of the
    Sinn Féin leadership towards his family’s plight.

  • Comrade Stalin

    mcclafferty,

    Can you explain how someone who has, rightly or wrongly, been closely identified as being associated with dissident republicans, would get a fair trial from a jury which is a cross-section of the population in NI ? Wouldn’t you expect a significant proportion of the jurors to be hostile to Mr McGeough’s political beliefs ?

  • Paddy

    “The news comes amid growing anger among nationalists in the East Tyrone area at
    the discrimination involved in Gerry’s case and the complete indifference of the
    Sinn Féin leadership towards his family’s plight.”

    Kinda odd that they looked for support from all and sundry when they were backing the INLA/PIRA hunger strikers. That is the second time round; first time, they were abstentionist and scuttled the IRSPs as well as bandwagon jumping Trots.

    Comrade Stalin. It is not supposed to be a show trial but a fair judge and jury of his peers. McGough, like the late Brendan Hughes et al, has said the war has run its course. He has hung up his guns. Why go after him and not the PIRA fat cats?

    McClafferty: I do hope resistance in East Tyrone gains some traction. The Orange State has exacted a heavy price from the brave men and women of that area. It looks like the shoot ups at cappagh, Lough all and other places were nto enough for them.

    It says a lot (or a little) about McGuinness and his ilk that they abandon former comrades. True to form, unfortunately. Fianna Fail were more honest in former times.

  • Paddy

    Christy: Good luck in your appeal. Are your local reps not helping you? Is anyone taking up your case?

  • mcclafferty

    Christy,
    I have forwarded your info to several Irish-American organizations in the USA as well and I’m sure someone will be in touch with you to see if they can be of help to you. Who are your local reps?

  • mcclafferty

    Comrade Stalin, No. The jury process, if handled openly and honestly, like in the USA, would weed out those potential jury members who were not fit to be part of the jury process or who had already been “prejudiced” against the defendant. Diplock courts were put in place in northeast Ireland for one purpose and that wasn’t to secure a fair outcome for any Irish Republican on trial. It was put in place to ensure a one way ticket to prison.

  • mcclafferty

    Paddy, I attended almost every function Sinn Fein held here in the USA and in northeast Ireland when they addressed those Irish-Americans who supported them throughout the Troubles about the possibility of an IRA cease-fire and the possibility of a sit down with the British Government. Throughout the entire process between 1994 and 1998, when they finally signed the Stormont Agreement, Adams and Company back then blew smoke up the arses of every Irish-American who helped to make it possible for them to be in the position they are in today. They out and out lied to us (their hard core IA supporters) about what their true intentions were. However, what I found most disturbing was they lied to their own – the very men and women who marched to their orders and gave up their lives through either lengthy incarceration or death, to be sold out by their own leadership. So the Dublin-Sunday Tribune article I believe is very true regardless of how much SF will try to deny it. They speak out of both sides of their mouth. So there is nothing that Sinn Fein does now that would surprise me including abandoning their former comrades i.e., Gerry McGeough to mention one. “The most difficult choice a politician must ever make is whether to be a hypocrite or a liar.” Unknown source.

  • mcclafferty

    Comrade Stalin, On further consideration of your question #10 – I would like to further say that Gerry’s involvement, as you call with “dissident republicans”, is that he ran openly in an election as an Independent Republican. Is it now considered impermissible to campaign peacefully and politically and that the way to a united Ireland is not to endorse a British administration and the crown constabulary?

    McGeough did not ask for a Diplock court and the crown did not deny him a jury trial to spare him from embarrassment. If you were correct and jurors might not sympathize with someone who is charged perhaps wrongly with 1981 offenses while leaders and commanders of the IRA are commended at Stormont, then why a Diplock Court?

  • mcclafferty & Paddy,
    Thanks for your comments –Kevin Winters & Co are representing me now –such a relief because you know what they say about the man who represents himself –he has an ass for a client;)

    Cheers!!
    Christy

  • Comrade Stalin

    Paddy,

    Comrade Stalin. It is not supposed to be a show trial but a fair judge and jury of his peers. McGough, like the late Brendan Hughes et al, has said the war has run its course. He has hung up his guns. Why go after him and not the PIRA fat cats?

    I’m focussing rather specifically on the idea that a trial by jury is somehow more fair, especially in the context where someone has been identified as having political beliefs that some would associate with active paramilitarism.

    I’m sure I remember reading years ago that the conviction rates for Diplock trials were consistently lower than for jury trials. In other words, the prosecution is less likely to succeed under Diplock. Add to this the fact that jury trials are generally not considered the barometer of a justice system elsewhere in the world, and the argument starts looking somewhat weak.

    mcclafferty:

    Comrade Stalin, No. The jury process, if handled openly and honestly, like in the USA, would weed out those potential jury members who were not fit to be part of the jury process or who had already been “prejudiced” against the defendant.

    Ah yes, that explains it. You’re an American.

    Doesn’t the prosecution have a say in the jury as well ?

    Are you arguing that systems which do not operate selection of juries (ie pretty much all of them outside the USA) can’t deliver justice ? Don’t you consider it ironic considering that this is the country that brought us Guantanamo Bay ?

    Diplock courts were put in place in northeast Ireland for one purpose and that wasn’t to secure a fair outcome for any Irish Republican on trial. It was put in place to ensure a one way ticket to prison.

    Can you explain why it hasn’t been successful then ? Note all the cases of diplock trials where high profile republicans were not imprisoned. Why was Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness ever imprisoned ? How did the Omagh bombers get off despite having been through a full diplock trial ? Why were those republicans tried for the murder of Robert McCartney cleared ? You could argue quite reasonably that the British establishment would have been keen for a conviction in all those cases, so why was no conviction obtained ?

    Comrade Stalin, On further consideration of your question #10 – I would like to further say that Gerry’s involvement, as you call with “dissident republicans”, is that he ran openly in an election as an Independent Republican. Is it now considered impermissible to campaign peacefully and politically and that the way to a united Ireland is not to endorse a British administration and the crown constabulary?

    I’m not passing judgement myself on McGeough’s politics. I am saying that a jury is more susceptible to bias than a panel of judges are, and a fair trial for any republican or loyalist paramilitary using a jury will be very difficult to obtain.

  • mcclafferty

    Comrade Stalin:

    Is there a hidden message in your comment “Ah yes that explains it. You’re an American”?

    In the USA both sides vet potential jury members – and it can be quite an intense process depending on the case.

    “Don’t you consider it ironic considering that this is the country that brought us Guantanamo Bay? Please explain.

    From what I have read over the past 20 years covering diplock trials, I have read just the opposite. That they have had a very high rate of convictions especially at the height of the Troubles. As for the more recent cases you mention “Omagh” and “Robert McCartney”, I was totally shocked at the outcome myself, but I still don’t believe in a diplock court system. Judges can be biased too as well as open to bribes and being bought off. It happens in the USA quite often. If I was on trial for an offense, I would prefer to be judged by a jury of my peers then a single judge!

  • There are two schools of thought regarding fair trials –some believe that an educated judge is better than an uneducated collection of ‘the man on the street’ –others believe completely in trial by jury –whichever trial system is used the same should be applied to all.
    My point above was that when some defendants are selected for one form different than what is a available to the rest of the population then that involves drawing an adverse inference against them which sets the whole atmosphere of the trial –namely that this defendant poses a risk to a jury different from everyone else.
    Also, whatever anyone thinks of Guantanamo Bay Comrade Stalin is likely not responsible for it less alone for him to account for it. The USA a jury system, even with its faults, is regarded as one of the most robust in the world.
    My own studies of jury trials which have gone wrong, and been corrected on Appeal, I have not come across a single case were the jury was at fault usually the truth in all such cases tends to be that the Trial Judge misdirected the jury or some other procedural error/irregularity.
    As for Diplock statistics they are still sketchy given the disparity of sentencing between loyalist/republican defendants –until the 1990’s Diplock Court’s tended toward a greater leniency and lower sentence rates when dealing with loyalist related offenses. What is known is that Carswell in particular had a 98% conviction rate when dealing with republican/ nationalist defendants.

  • Comrade Stalin

    mcclafferty:

    That they have had a very high rate of convictions especially at the height of the Troubles.

    What’s the conviction rate then ? I’ve not been able to find any numbers. Can you point to any specific cases of mistrials ? Are you aware that anyone wrongfully convicted is still able to appeal up the system to the ECHR ?

    Since I’ve never heard republicans mentioning conviction rates in respect to their propaganda about Diplock courts, it’s probably safe to say that the statistics don’t support their argument.

    As for the more recent cases you mention “Omagh” and “Robert McCartney”, I was totally shocked at the outcome myself, but I still don’t believe in a diplock court system.

    I’m not asking so much that you believe in diplock, rather that you substantiate your claim that non-jury trials are unjust. The only evidence I can see about diplock courts is that they’re less likely to convict. That’s preferable to wrongful convictions.

    Christy:

    As for Diplock statistics they are still sketchy given the disparity of sentencing between loyalist/republican defendants—until the 1990’s Diplock Court’s tended toward a greater leniency and lower sentence rates when dealing with loyalist related offenses.

    That’s a fascinating claim, I’m sure you can support it with some actual numbers.

    Speaking anecdotally, my perception was that loyalists were always more likely to get caught and sentenced. There are many high profile loyalist cases, eg Michael Stone, Johnny Adair, the Shankill butchers, John White, etc etc etc. There are many high profile cases of republican attacks/atrocities for which nobody was caught, eg La Mon, Bloody Friday, etc etc.

    What is known is that Carswell in particular had a 98% conviction rate when dealing with republican/ nationalist defendants.

    I won’t defend Carswell, but if you’re going to claim the guy was locking innocent people up, then you need to point to the statistics showing them all being released on appeal.

    And my logic still stands. If you were an IRA man, would you want to be up against a jury of the 1970s which, if selected from the population at random, would likely be 60% unionist with another 30% being substantially opposed to the IRA campaign ? To me that would start to look like a show trial.

  • mcclafferty

    #21 Comrade Stalin:

    I can’t give you exact numbers but I can give you information you can look up yourself regarding the more famous cases tried by “diplock courts” and then tell me whether you consider them to be “less likely to convict”.

    Birmingham Six, Guilford Four, Maguire Seven, Judith Ward, Charlie McMenamin,Christy Ward, just to mention a few.

    Since 1972 the British government has justified diplock courts used in northeast Ireland on the basis that they were a “temporary” expedient to curb political unrest. However, many internationally-respected human rights organizations hold the view that “the decision to remove the right to jury trial was taken prematurely for reasons of political expediency”. Those same organizations have never been convinced that the risk of intimidation or bias was so high as to justify this removal of fundamental rights.

    Nevertheless, despite widespread international objections, the diplock court system continued without impunity with corrupt and political policing, lower standards of evidence required and a good chance of a “case-hardened judge” sitting without a jury.

    Amnesty International, for example, found that almost eighty percent (80%) of those convicted in diplock courts were found guilty based on confessions given at notorious holding centers like Castlereagh and Gough Barracks. It appears it was just a matter of the RUC or other crown servants who inflicted torture telling the diplock judge that the political suspect confessed and then immediately injured themselves. Jurors could not have been counted upon to see through such lies as there were none.

    My understanding is that trying to overturn a wrongful conviction is an extremely lengthy legal task. Several of the sources below suggest that examination of many of any number of cases which were heard in front of these non-jury diplock courts since 1973 shows that there were countless miscarriages of justice which resulted in many young men and women spending years in prison for offences they did not commit.

    Sources: Jim McVeigh of Coiste na n-Iarchimí, British Irish Rights Watch,
    Amnesty International, Committee on Administration of Justice, to mention a few.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Birmingham Six, Guilford Four, Maguire Seven, Judith Ward, Charlie McMenamin,Christy Ward, just to mention a few.

    These are serious miscarriages of justice, but let’s look at them. In the Birmingham Six case, the police fabricated the evidence that was used to convict the men. How was the court supposed to know that ? Why do you think the presence of a jury would have made any difference ? You’ll note that the conviction was overturned when evidence was presented about the fabrication.

    In the cases of both the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, the police forced confessions and the prosecution fabricated a case. What has that got to do with Diplock ? Why do you think that a jury would have seen that the evidence was obtained illegally whereas a judge would not ?

    If you’re going to make the case here that the judge acted as an agent of the State and deliberately and knowingly overlooked the fabrications and forced confessions, then you need to explain why the cases were overturned on appeal ?

    The cases you are making here point to serious problems within the British justice system where the police and prosecution authorities abuse their powers. This is a major problem, albeit not one restricted to this jurisdiction. But you have not presented any evidence specifically to show that if those cases had been tried by jury that the result would have been any different. To make your case you need to present evidence that miscarriages of justice are more likely with a panel of judges than with a jury. I still haven’t seen any. I’m still coming back to the fact that conviction rates under Diplock appeared to have been lower. And from what I recall, the conviction rates were higher for loyalists than for republicans.

    However, many internationally-respected human rights organizations hold the view that “the decision to remove the right to jury trial was taken prematurely for reasons of political expediency”.

    Why are these internationally-respected human rights organizations apparently not aware that non-jury trials are common throughout Europe and the rest of the world ? Why do these organizations think that a trial by peers in the background of a lot of bad publicity for the defendant is fair ?

    Nevertheless, despite widespread international objections, the diplock court system continued without impunity with corrupt and political policing, lower standards of evidence required and a good chance of a “case-hardened judge” sitting without a jury.

    In that case, why have convictions never been obtained for serious atrocities even in cases where the authorities have evidence – usually circumstantial – on the perpetrators ? Why were diplock courts not used to lock up most of the IRA leadership on pretexts ? Note that the Stormont government had to introduce internment to do that.

    for example, found that almost eighty percent (80%) of those convicted in diplock courts were found guilty based on confessions given at notorious holding centers like Castlereagh and Gough Barracks.

    A very serious allegation. So why were the cases not appealed and/or taken to the ECHR ?

    It appears it was just a matter of the RUC or other crown servants who inflicted torture telling the diplock judge that the political suspect confessed and then immediately injured themselves. Jurors could not have been counted upon to see through such lies as there were none.

    What evidence is there that jurors would have been motivated to see through the forced confessions ? And there have been many high-profile cases of miscarriage of justice/wrongful conviction/etc in the presence of a jury. eg the famous case here of the murder of Patricia Curran, which involved tampered evidence and the direct interference in a police investigation by a senior Unionist figure.

    Why, incidentally, are all these “internationally respected” organizations not campaigning against the similar juryless court system which exists in the Republic of Ireland ? This system was used to try – and convict – republicans who managed to escape prosecution in NI – such as Martin McGuinness. There, you can theoretically be convicted on the word of a senior police officer (something that has never been the case in the UK).

  • Comrade Stalin you are way off, particularly about IRA wanting to be up in front of a Jury –1 they did not recognize the court and 2) jury selection was based exclusively around property ownership (gerrymandering) up until 1974 when surprise surprise jury trial was suspended because it MIGHT have reflected the population more accurately.

    As for statistics on one hand I am in the middle of major legal battle so no time to run about for you. But if you look at the arrest figures for internment and the jail population throughout the Troubles there was on average a 3:1 ratio of nationalists banged up than loyalists. And I will not name any of the IRA high profiles. Further I spent time with a man on a wing with a man convicted for the Le Mon bombing so you are planely wrong there. A common comaprator of cases to look at where those involving house holders having guns stored on their property –many nationalists got from 8 to around 20 years whereas it was quite common for there conterpart on the loyalist side to get 4 years and 4years suspended.

  • Ops: Twenty years on and three appeals later I can tell you that the absence of cases being quashed on appeal under the Diplock System has little relevance upon quilt or innocence. The Diplock System was never concerned with establishing quilt or innocence but simply to lock up who the RUC wanted locked up excluding a few token releases.

  • Martin

    Thought that I’d just throw in a clarifying point with the cases of The Birmingham Six and The Guildford four; whilst evident cases of misjustice, they were both tried openly by jury. They were not tried under the Diplock system.