Dealing with the Past. Call for at least 300 “miscarriages of justice” to be reviewed

 

A new article in the November edition of the Modern Law Review by Hannah Quirk (£), describes an approach quite different from that of the historians of Arkiv.

The article explores the “neglected” area of miscarriages of justice and suggests these may be much more extensive than previously realised. The level of appeals for wrongful convictions was low but is not a reliable indicator of justice served. Ms Quirk quotes a figure of  at least 300 such cases which could be reviewed.

The article  calls for Northern Ireland to have its own criminal cases review body separate from the UK body which currently refers cases to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

The article identifies the NI courts as “the one that got away” from the process of  scrutinising  and  reforming institutions under the GFA. But it favourably  contrasts the rulings of the Court of Appeal today with its  approach during the Troubles.  In recent years NICA has ruled on referrals to it  by the UK wide Criminal Cases Review Commission and  has quashed a number of convictions as “unsafe,” even if the appellants appear to have been factually guilty.

. The analysis of the Diplock Courts system will be familiar. It is not wholly critical and discusses in my view fairly reasonably the incredibly difficult situations facing the administration of justice at the time.

The article is clearly informed by the Irish Centre on Wrongful Convictions set up  in 2012. to assist individuals in submitting applications to the CCRC; to campaign for changes to how these cases are investigated; “and to campaign for ‘an independent inquiry into police brutality and judicial malpractice during the civil conflict”. This group clearly has access to the justice system. It’s led by Jim McVeigh, Sinn Fein’s leader on Belfast City Council, and the last IRA jail leader in the Maze. He explained the purpose of the centre to Brian Rowan in eamonnmallie.com last October.

.“Its purpose will be to work with prisoners – all prisoners or former prisoners – who feel they’ve been the victim of a miscarriage of justice,” McVeigh said.

He revealed that a number of loyalists have already brought cases to the attention of the new project.

“Anybody who has been in prison knows from their own personal experience that there are many, many people who were in prison who were innocent,” McVeigh continued.

“There may well be thousands of people who were the victim of a miscarriage of justice and up until probably recent years they’ve had no opportunity to address those historic injustices,” he said.

McVeigh said there will be a particular focus on convictions that relied on statement evidence alone.

“We want to highlight the fact that brutality was systematic, was endemic and that draws a question over the safety of these convictions, particularly people who were convicted on statement evidence alone,” McVeigh said.

Extract from the article:

 Despite the vast transitional justice scholarship relating to prisoner release, amnesties and prosecutions when conflicts end, there is a significant gap in practice and academic literature regarding wrongful convictions. Uniquely amongst post-conflict societies, Northern Ireland has a body for investigating miscarriages of justice, albeit one designed for ‘ordinary’ appeals. In the absence of a formal truth-recovery process, criminal appeals are becoming a proxy for addressing the role of the state during ‘The Troubles,’ as well as remedying individual injustices. This article examines the approach of the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal during the conflict. It charts the developments in its decision-making following the cease-fires and the establishment of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. It concludes that the current system is unsatisfactory as it ignores the effects of the conflict on the appeal process and offers no insights into the role of the Court during the conflict.

The author calls for  a “special category” appeal procedure to take a wider view of applications  for miscarriages of justice. Under the present these stand at about 300 cases .

 The Irish Centre on Wrongful Convictions wants the CCRC to establish an office in Northern Ireland, funded by the Northern Ireland Executive through the Department of Justice.  If this suggestion were accepted, the enabling legislation could consider giving the Northern Ireland body enhanced or extended powers to investigate appeals in a broader context.”

It’s clear therefore that some legal campaigners want to pursue a more legally activist approach to dealing with the past than the British government has supported so far.

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  • Rory Carr

    There surely cannot be any opposition, on Slugger at least, to a campaign that seeks the rectification of miscarriages of justice.

    The damage that is done, not alone to the wrongly convicted, but also, like ripples in pool, to his family, friends and wider community, is extensive and corrosive. I expect the level of support on this site to be fulsome as this is a campaign that cuts across traditional community lines.

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: There surely cannot be any opposition, on Slugger at least, to a campaign that seeks the rectification of miscarriages of justice.
    There already is a system for appeals. This lot appear to want another carriage attached to the gravy train.

  • Rory Carr

    A system that has failed to address what may be hundreds of cases of miscarriage of justice is surely a system that has failed and to describe an attempt to rectify such failure as attaching to a gravy train is just wrong-headed.

  • gendjinn

    All convictions that were secured solely on confessions should be overturned, especially if those confessions were secured in Castlereagh.

    Furthermore, those that secured those confessions should be prosecuted.

    But that’ll never happen, I mean, we’re relying on British justice after all…..

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: A system that has failed to address what may be hundreds of cases of miscarriage of justice is surely a system that has failed and to describe an attempt to rectify such failure as attaching to a gravy train is just wrong-headed.
    They aren’t proposing anything that would make that sort of difference. Look at the last part of the quote from the article – their objections to the existing system are not practical issues. So far as I am concerned this lot can join the queue a long way behind the community groups, the victims-groups and the legal-aid campaigners.

  • cynic2

    ” a campaign that seeks the rectification of miscarriages of justice.”

    alleged miscarriages of justice

    “the UK wide Criminal Cases Review Commission and has quashed a number of convictions as “unsafe,” even if the appellants appear to have been factually guilty”

    Just what we need then

    Reader

    Heaven forfend that the legal profession seeing the milk of leagal aid dry up might diversify to pastures new which have regrown after their predecessors pursued every appeal and failed to get their clients off last time. Still by now records may have been destroyed witnesses died and enough evidence ’emerge’ to get them off

    Still if that’s what it takes to educate the kids and pay off the sofa ………. (TM Newt Emmerson)

  • cynic2

    ” those that secured those confessions should be prosecuted”

    Peeler “Right sean, you were found standing over the body covered in blood and with a smoking gun in your hand and the deceased had scrawled “‘sean dun it’ on the floor in his own blood’. So did you do it.

    Sean “Yes …I shot him”

    Peeler “Right. You can go now while I now arrest myself for forcing that out of you under duress by asking impertinent questions, I will also charge myself with gross incompetence for failure to fully investigate Sean’s murder and will ask the Ombudsman to oversee both investigations and refer me to the European Court of Human Rights ”

    Sean “Hoi…you forgot that I have been traumatised by having to murder him and by my subsequent treatment”

    Peeler “Indeed”

  • cynic2

    ” I expect the level of support on this site to be fulsome as this is a campaign that cuts across traditional community lines.”

    Oi….I am the cynic here

  • Framer

    Maybe Billy McKee could be appointed to chair the new body.
    He has a no-nonsense approach to justice and was probably a victim of just such a miscarriage – ‘factually guilty’ but convicted by procedures thought inappropriate 40 years later.

  • Son of Strongbow

    From not recognising the courts to scrabbling around trying to overturn convictions in the self same “enemy’s” system militant nationalists do seem to have traveled a very long road.

    Of course perhaps we shouldn’t ask why it matters to the bhoys of the old brigade? You’d have thought that having their ‘military’ service validated publicly and becoming ‘POWs’ would be something to look back on with pride.

    How will they ever answer the question ‘what did you do in the war daddy?’?

    Perhaps too it’s perhaps also best not to mention these ‘Marxists’ facilitating the enrichment of the bourgeois legal class. Maybe walking past all those lawyers’ BMWs in the car park at the High Court on the way to gaol got them thinking.

    Seems that another unintended outcome of the ‘peace process’ has been to instil an attraction for a nice besuited middle class lifestyle in these working class ‘freedom fighters’ (aside from lawyer-envy personally I blame all those subsidised Stormont and ‘community worker’ jobs along with the various quango bunfights).

    If things continue on this track in years to come all the Shinners will be claiming to have been standing idly by, nursing a bold little merlot, whilst themuns, supported/opposed as required by various spooks, were responsible for the violence.

    Perhaps that’s what the ultimate objective of ‘truth recovery’ actually is?

  • tacapall

    Yeap like the boys above are saying, how could any Irish person be wrongly judged and convicted by one British peer who is judge, jury and prosecution with no evidence other than a confession obtained by a now discredited and corrupt former police force. Yes we do need CCRC to establish an office in this part of Ireland. Obviously those souls who were wrongly convicted by the unjust diplock court system dont want to be waiting as long as the families of the Bloody Sunday victims on justice.

  • between the bridges

    SF/IRA want a review of ‘miscarriages of justice’, perhaps they could start in house…

  • “Obviously those souls who were wrongly convicted by the unjust diplock court system dont want to be waiting as long as the families of the Bloody Sunday victims on justice.”

    Or the disappeared who are still waiting for it. We have no idea on what evidence they were convicted.

  • cynic2

    “SF/IRA want a review of ‘miscarriages of justice’, perhaps they could start in house”

    Can we start with the Steak-knife cases? And those who ordered them.

  • megatron

    We live in a world where hypocracy and lies are the oil that keeps the whole show going – com NSA spying to peace processes to capitalism itself. It is ludicrous to expect Gerry to tell the truth on his own. Not just ludicrous but misguided.

    I also believe it is ludicrous to expect anyone else involved to tell the whole truth.

    That said, Gerry should go now for many reasons.

  • megatron

    Sorry wrong thread

  • gendjinn

    between the bridges,

    SF/IRA want a review of ‘miscarriages of justice’, perhaps they could start in house…

    Actually, it’s those that weren’t members of Sinn Fein nor the IRA who were tortured into forced confessions and false convictions that want those miscarriages of justice rectified.

    I shouldn’t expect ignorance of your level to comprehend or understand.

  • tomthumbuk

    I don’t think Colin Duffy could have any complaints about the Diplock courts.

  • tacapall

    “Can we start with the Steak-knife cases? And those who ordered them”

    Indeed Cynic – You do know he and the person that give him his orders were both British intelligence agents.

  • carl marks

    A post like this is not long in getting the bigots out, we should ask why! How can a call for justice possibly offend anybody unless of course you have a have a obsessive and deep hatred for those who are victims of injustice but strangely these same people are fond of pointing out that they are supporters of the law.
    Of course it could be that such a call means that the holy trinity of the RUC/British Army/British Justice is being insulted and none may insult such pure and true people.
    Or they could be opposed to nationalists rewriting history, after all look at all that stuff nationalists make up, collusion, discrimination, OO violence, and they have the cheek to call those peaceful fleg protests illegal.
    Or they could just be Bigots, and the consolation of this is they are yesterday’s men and thankfully a dying breed

  • carl marks

    cynic2 (profile)

    5 November 2013 at 8:30 am

    ” those that secured those confessions should be prosecuted”

    Peeler “Right sean, you were found standing over the body covered in blood and with a smoking gun in your hand and the deceased had scrawled “‘sean dun it’ on the floor in his own blood’. So did you do it.

    Sean “Yes …I shot him”

    Really a completely irrelevant example in the case you invented there would be forensic evidence, ballistics, fingerprints, powder residue etc., if you look at the post it is about convictions based on confessions forced out of people.
    How do you have a problem with this, is wrongful imprisonment not something should be put right?

  • carl marks

    Could someone tell me who the “bhoys” are I thought it referred to Celtic players or supporters (knowing little and caring less about soccer I’m not sure) , I have seen this word used a few times out of that context and it seems to be one of those sectarian codes used to stereotype themmuns(you know, Celtic supporter=nationalist =Provo bomber).
    If I’m wrong I’m sure someone will correct me and explain!

  • Reader

    carl marks: Could someone tell me who the “bhoys” are I thought it referred to Celtic players or supporters (knowing little and caring less about soccer I’m not sure) , I have seen this word used a few times out of that context and it seems to be one of those sectarian codes used to stereotype themmuns
    Actually, I would have recognised it as a comradely term for Provos long before I realised it might also be used for Celtic supporters. Maybe the sequence of the usage is as you describe, but then my suspicion would be that IRA supporters borrowed the term, meaning no harm in their own eyes. You needn’t blame the Huns for everything, you know.

  • cynic2

    Its a rum old time for the Shinners. Poor old Gerry exposed as a Paedo Protector and now we have Spotlight showing PIRAs links the Calabrian Mafia and to sealing hundreds of thousands off families in West Belfast.

    Now will Deputy Adams make a statement to the Irish People on where all the IRA money has gone and who has it? For what purpose? Have any political donations been made? Will the Victims be compensated?

    Well? We are waiting Gerry

  • fordprefect

    Cynic, BTB et al,
    As other people have commented, people had confessions beaten out of them, you also had people who were under-age (they should have had a solicitor/parent/guardian with them, but didn’t) and people with mental health problems. Remember, all was needed was a signed “confession” and down they went in Diplock courts. And it transcended the political divide here.

  • carl marks

    Reader
    Strange, I never heard the IRA called the Bhoys , the song is titled “The Boys of the old Brigade” seems to me the deliberate misspelling is as I said, a small man trying to stereotype those he see as his enemy (remember there is form here)pathetic really that some see sectarian abuse as an alternative for debate and sad that you should find it necessary to rush to his defence.