“The judge, Lord Justice Coghlin, then held a brief private hearing with lawyers representing the Northern Ireland Office”

Gerry McGeough, last seen in April confronting Gerry Adams, was in court today in the latest stage of his trial on a charge of attempted murder dating back to 1981.  McGeough was arrested as he left the count centre after his unsuccesssful run in the 2007 Assembly election.  His legal team have made an abuse of process application.

UTV notes the charges

McGeough, from the Carrycastle Road, Gortmerron Dungannon, is accused of attempting to murder former UDR soldier Samuel Brush, possessing two Colt revolvers used in the atack on June 13 1981 and two counts of being a member of the IRA on dates between January 1975 and June 1981.

His co-accused, 47-year-old Vincent McAnespie, from Aghabo Close in Aughnacloy, denies a charge of impeding the apprehension of McGeough by hiding the pistols.

We previously learned that a charge of attempted murder against McAnespie, a Sinn Féin party member and husband of a Sinn Féin Councillor, was dropped following the withdrawal of two witness statements.

[Prosecuting lawyer, David Reid] said two witness were recently revisited by police and made statements but within two days other people came to see them on four separate occasions and, while no open threat was made, they were left in no doubt that they were to withdraw their statements.

“The threat was implied and the elderly witnesses were left in a very frightened state,” Mr Reid said.

“Later one of them was out shopping and was called a traitor.”

UTV notes that McGeough told the court

…that in July 2000, Sinn Fein politician Gerry Kelly “conveyed to me that I was free to return to Northern Ireland without fear of being arrested“.

He told the court the alleged conversation came in circumstances where he was due to stand for selection process to decide if he would stand as a Sinn Fein candidate in the upcoming General Election.

And that

McGeough said he was visited by two RUC officers in a German prison in 1991 and thought extradition proceedings would be forthcoming but nothing happened and added that after he spoke with Mr Kelly, “I wondered at time if such a thing would happen”.

Under cross examination from a prosecution lawyer McGeough conceded that he did not receive assurance from “any prosecuting authority or member of the government” that he would not face prosecution.

The lawyer put it to McGeough that in a letter from the NIO in January 2003, “it as made clear that you were liable to prosecution and arrest should you be in the jurisdiction” but McGeough claimed that was “never conveyed to me”.

When I was given the assurances by Mr Kelly I was of the opinion that this matter had been resolved and in the context of the time, everyone was speaking about meeting in resolution of the conflict and former ‘enemies’ were sitting around the table,” claimed McGeough.

The BBC report an interesting addition to the court proceedings

The defence then called William ‘Plum’ Smyth, a former chairman of the Progressive Unionist Party, who took part in the negotiations that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

The party represented the views of the UVF, and discussed issues relating to loyalist prisoners.

He told the court that former Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam, had given verbal assurances to loyalists and republicans during those discussions about the fate of anyone wanted for questioning about conflict related offences.

William Smyth said this assurance was given during a formal meeting with Mo Mowlam at Stormont, in the presence of a number of senior civil servants, in March or early April 1998.

He claimed she said there would be no legal pursuit of anyone, loyalist, republican, police officer or soldier, for offences committed before 1998.

Mr Smyth said similar assurances were also given by the former secretary of state during a number of private, informal meetings.

And that is indeed the situation that then Secretary of State, Peter Hain, attempted to formalise by legislation in 2005 – until Sinn Féin were forced to publicly withdraw support for the arrangements.  As Peter Hain stated in January 2006.

“The Government could have proceeded with this Bill when the issue was first raised seven years ago. We could have done so when the Joint Declaration was made in 2003. But we did not because the IRA had not delivered on its promise to end its war. We waited until that happened.

“Every Northern Ireland Party vigorously opposed the Bill, bar Sinn Fein. Now Sinn Fein is opposed because they refused to accept that this legislation should apply to members of the security forces charged with terrorism-related offences.

“Mr Speaker, to exclude any members of the security forces who might have been involved in such offences from the provisions of the Bill would not only have been illogical, it would have been indefensible and we would not do it. Closure on the past cannot be one-sided.”

Back to the courts today, the BBC report also notes

The judge, Lord Justice Coghlin, then held a brief private hearing with lawyers representing the Northern Ireland Office.

Perhaps to discuss what was reported previously in the Sunday Tribune?

In a document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Kevin Winters’ solicitors, the NIO says Sinn Féin provided the names of 216 on the runs. The PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service then reviewed files “to determine whether the individual is wanted for questioning, arrest or prosecution”.

The NIO said decisions were evidence-based and whether prosecution was in “the public interest”.

It claimed “political considerations play no part in this assessment”.

McGeough’s lawyers are demanding the authorities disclose “all material pertaining to any discussion, meetings and correspondence” relating to decisions not to prosecute certain republicans.

The former head of the PSNI’s serious crime squad, Norman Baxter, told a House of Commons’ committee last November: “There was an extremely unhealthy interest by (NIO) officials about prioritising individuals who were on the run and ensuring they were cleared to return to the North.”

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  • Brian Walker

    A perfect account of the futility of pursuing cold cases, however regrettable that may be. I’m amazed it came to trial.

  • Carrickmoreman

    Seems to be that Mr. McGeough is being treated unfairly due to the fact that he’s now an Anti-Treaty Republican.

  • joeCanuck

    Is it proper in the UK for a Judge to privately meet with lawyers for one side only?

  • Pete Baker

    It was in camera, not ‘in private’.

  • Pete Baker

    I think…

  • joeCanuck

    Pete,
    It was you who used the word “private” in your heading, even if you were only quoting someone else.
    Still, is it proper to meet one side only, in camera?

  • Pete Baker

    Well, Brian, we haven’t heard the ruling on this application yet – due “by Monday”, apparently.

    But nothing noted seems to be legally binding.

    And at the time of the arrests they had two witness statements – since withdrawn after conversations in the ‘community’…

  • Pete Baker

    The point, Joe, is that it’s not clear that it was one side only ‘in private’ – we only know that journalists were not privy to it.

  • Pete Baker

    Possibly… Apart from the other defendant.

  • I wish Mr McGeough luck. It is not good enough to pursue one man when others are/maybe sitting comfortably in Stormont…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Its our old friend Creative Ambiguity.the lie on which Peace is based and not noted by Journalists at the time.
    Can anyone seriously doubt that Mo Mowlam has a record of talking out of both sides of her mouth to different people.
    Hasnt that been a recurring theme in Tony Blairs interviews this week……all of them “exclusive”.
    Somebody called Plum apparently..who was at the negotiations says that Mowlam said this in public and private.
    No doubt the civil servants present MIGHT recall differently and beat their way into Laganside Courts to say it aint true. I suggest they wont. What message would they get from their political and civil service bosses for doing so?
    Not much different from the message received by elderly witnesses.
    On balance youd have to think that Mr McGeough…admittedly a sandwich short of a picnic….would not have rushed back to Norn Iron without at least believing himself to be immune.
    On balance we all hold the view that nobody is going to jail for anything before 1998. Creative ambiguity (the big lie) obliges politicians to say different in public….or say nothing…..or as the years pass hope it will go away and they can blame a long retired or deceased predecessor.

    Does the Judge really need a weekend to deliver the decision?

  • joeCanuck

    Does the Judge really need a weekend to deliver the decision?

    Perhaps he needs political guidance. It would seem that judicial independence isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Remember Widgery?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Apparently as Mr Baker pointed out at 10.57pm, that we only know that “journalists” were not privy to it.
    It seems reasonable enough that as journos and politicians were all getting on so well on the football field at Stormont today…..an enterprising journo could have actually asked all those politicians (after all they were at the Peace talks).
    It seems thats where the real information could have been discovered….although Id be surprised if journos did not actually already know the answer. They have had over 12 years to ask.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “It is not good enough to pursue one man when others are/maybe sitting comfortably in Stormont…”

    No, not good enough that some other is Lance Corporal F. Gerry is charged with attemped murder. Lance Corporal F killed more than one human that Sunday in Derry.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Proud of Abhu Graibh are you? How would it be if the Brits used Predator drones in Ireland, not once or twice but over and over again, and then bragged about the ‘success’ rate.

    Put your own house in order before you start mouthing off about these little islands.

  • mcclafferty32

    fitzjameshorese1745

    Before you label Gerry McGeough “a sandwich short of a picnic” have you bothered to take a look at the man’s personal achievements outside of his republican loyalties?
    Gerry McGeough is far from “unbalanced”. Have you ever published books? Gained high academic achievements? Established facilities for people in your community while under severe legal restrictions? Managed to continue to fight the system/political enemies while still recovering from a massive heart attack? Be a leading figure in the
    local community and be held in the highest possible esteem there? Did you ever ask yourself why the Brits are so determined to have him imprisoned? Check yourself at the gate!

  • mcclafferty32

    Pete

    The question then is why are these confidential political asylum papers being used in a British diplock court against Mr. McGeough? Also, why has Mr. McGeough been “singled out to be the first republican to be charged with historical crimes since the GFA” when the man has been living a peaceful existence with his wife and children since his return to Northern Ireland more then seven years ago? This whole case/trial reeks of a vindictive and politically motivated witch hunt.

  • Secret Squirrel

    That’s not very nice at all given that it was an observation delivered without aggression.

  • Alan Maskey

    What is the story with Rita O’Hare and the late Joe Cahill. How come neither of them were ever arrested and shipped back? Cahill finished his days as Gerry’s mascot. Why ws he never charged with the Ballymurphy interview?
    This hassle cannot be good for Mr McGeogh’s health. In the old days, PSF would be harassing politicians to help them. Now prisoners not in PSF can go f themselves. Not very principled.

  • HeinzGuderian

    [keep it civil – edited moderator]

  • mcclafferty32

    Who are you referring to? The RUC/PSNI or the paras who gunned down innocent civil rights marcher in Derry or the UVF who bombed Dublin-Monaghan?

  • mcclafferty32

    Alan,

    That’s when PSF had integrity and stood up to their oppressors. Now they have become just like them, but this time they have their full backing.

  • mcclafferty32

    GERRY MCGEOUGH SUFFERS ANOTHER HEART ATTACK
    SEPTEMBER 14, 2010

    Gerry was to appear again in court today when he was taken ill this morning and rushed to Craigavon Hospital. It appears he has suffered another heart attack and will remain in the hospital under observation until further notice.

    IT IS TIME TO STOP THIS 3 ½ YEAR PERSECUTION OF
    GERRY MCGEOUGH

    For several years, prior to Gerry’s arrest, he was living a peaceful existence with his wife and children in Tyrone until he decided to run in the Assembly Elections as an Independent candidate on an anti-PSNI platform in March of 2007. That is when Gerry’s life took a change for the worse and it has been a living nightmare for him and his family ever since. Gerry was arrested at the count center, following the poll, and he has been vindictively persecuted by the British crown and their minion civil servants the RUC/PSNI.

    Over the 3 ½ years that Gerry’s trial was continuously postponed by the Crown, much of the “evidence” has consisted of reading the statements of dead people into the record, quoting paragraphs at his trial from his novel “Defenders”, published in 1998, which was factored in to the Prosecution’s argument. Using the BBC television program Panorama as part of their case in order to try to fabricate evidence against him by focusing on the 1997 series ‘Provos” by Peter Taylor (screened as “Behind the Mask in the U.S.). Gerry’s Diplock trial is a sham. The case against Gerry has degenerated into a farce.

    In contrast, the British government has operated a secret scheme granting royal pardons or immunity from prosecution to hand-picked ex-IRA members and Loyalists wanted for killings, bombings and other paramilitary activities. No members of the British forces are being charged or tried for their part in the 1969-98 North of Ireland conflict (the soldiers responsible for “Bloody Sunday” including those British/Orange forces behind the Dublin-Monaghan bombings).

    In their obsessive need to prosecute and imprison Gerry, his legal team’s “abuse of process” application was rejected and the British are now prepared to turn international political asylum refugee laws on their head by using as their chief “evidence” alleged political asylum application papers from Sweden (which are normally subjected to a 50-year confidentiality protection clause under Swedish law). The move will be the first time such documents will be used against a republican and has widespread implications for the entire concept of political asylum and has now become a major Human Rights issue.

    To pretend that Gerry’s arrest and on-going legal saga has anything to do with “justice” is a pathetic joke. He is being discriminated against for purely political reasons and there is a determined effort to railroad him into prison at the highest political level.

    Your prayers that Gerry returns to his normal good health and for an end to the 3 1/2 year harassment of him and his family by the RUC and Crown are greatly appreciated.

    Helen McClafferty

  • Alan Maskey

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11696614

    Interesting development in the political and religious persecution of Gerry McGeough. The Swedes have weighed in. One would have imagined that an application for political asylum is confidential.
    Though we all know Britain’s record is spotless and that it never operated a shoot to kill policy, or ran counter gangs or colluded with sectarian killers, other, less enlightened countries do. Does the country that prostituted itself to all comers during the wars of the Reformation and that sold arms to both sides in the Iran Iraq war sell aplicants from those other places out as well?