Bernadette Smyth: conviction and restraining order quashed

Anti abortion campaigner Bernadette Smyth was cleared on appeal yesterday. She had initially been convicted of harassing Dawn Purvis at the end of last year. At the original trail the judge Chris Holmes made a number of interesting comments. He stated: “I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not feel it’s appropriate for anyone to be stopped outside this clinic in any form, shape or fashion and questioned either to their identity, why they are going in … Read more

Anders Behring Breivik: murderer, fascist; and object of derision?

Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik was found guilty (and sane) last week. There is an excellent article on Breivik and his ultra right ideology by Matthew Feldman on the BBC website. Feldman (a Reader in History at Teeside University) is an expert on fascist ideology and the far right. Feldman notes the “Lone Wolf” nature of Breivik’s murders: First dubbed “leaderless resistance” by a radical right ideologue in 1982, the “lone wolf” tactic has remained a signature of far-right … Read more

Stepping Hill Hospital, nurses, the police and the media

After all the recent scandals involving the press one might hope that they are being careful to avoid the assorted pitfalls they fall into with such frequency. More likely, however, than a collective discovery of higher journalistic and editorial standards is that the fear of the current Leveson Inquiry is temporarily keeping them from the more egregious examples of the past. Last year there was the case of Rebecca Leighton the nurse who was accused of murdering patients at Stepping … Read more

Northern Ireland’s roads remain safe: possibly not at 111mph

Some good news was published by both the BBC and News Letter yesterday. There were 59 deaths on the roads in Northern Ireland last year, a rise from 55 the year before, but still vastly lower than in the past. Prior to 2010 the lowest number of deaths was in 2008 at 107. As the News Letter notes it is sometimes seen as distasteful to celebrate a reduction in deaths when people are still being killed but the reality is … Read more

Thoughts on Robert Black’s conviction

Last week saw another of the murderers of the past brought to justice. In this case, however, there was absolutely no controversy. Robert Black was convicted of the 1981 kidnap and murder of Jennifer Cardy. Black had already been convicted of the murder of three other little girls and is suspected of a number more. The police investigation against him was apparently christened “Perseverance” and indeed the details are extremely impressive: 22 tons of evidence was accumulated; 2,500 potential suspects … Read more

Terrorists: the good, the bad and the ignored

I blogged my views about Gusty Spence previously. However, Mr. Spence’s death also raises the issue of how ex-terrorists (or ex-combatants for those who prefer the term: exactly how the actions committed terrorists could be called combat is bizarre, but I digress) are viewed especially by the media. The way in which the media views ex paramilitaries differs radically between different individuals and groups but there is a certain common thread especially amongst what might be termed the “establishment media” … Read more

Innocent nurses, landlords and trial by tabloid

I blogged some months ago about the case of Chris Jefferies who was landlord to Jo Yates. Mr. Jefferies was arrested over Ms. Yates’s murder and then became the target of frenzied media speculation. Essentially it seemed that he was a bit eccentric, had odd hair, was an elderly bachelor and, hence, must be guilty. He was also a leading Liberal Democrat and the local party representatives rapidly distanced themselves from him. After all that Mr. Jefferies was completely innocent … Read more

Hearts fan convicted of breach of the peace but not assault over Neil Lennon incident

Hearts fan John Wilson has been found guilty of breach of the peace for an incident during the Hearts vs. Celtic match at Hearts’ Tynecastle stadium on 11th May this year. The jury of seven women and eight men deleted the reference to making a sectarian remark from the charge relating to breach of the peace, and that the offence was aggravated by religious prejudice. They returned a not proven verdict for a second charge, which alleged Wilson assaulted Mr … Read more

HET to interview McGuinness over Joanne Mathers murder

The News Letter is reporting that Martin McGuinness may be about to be interviewed by the Historical Enquiries Team regarding the 1981 murder of census worker Joanne Mathers. From the News letter: On Monday, MP Gregory Campbell referred to the fact obliquely when he raised a point of order in the assembly. Addressing assembly speaker Willie Hay, Mr Campbell (DUP) said: “If it transpires — my understanding is that it will — that the deputy first minister’s name will be … Read more

Ken Clarke’s rape gaffe

Ken Clarke has a reputation as one of the most formidable politicians of the past twenty years. He is also a bit more popular than many Tories amongst many in the media due his seemingly more liberal views, his eminent quote-ability and maybe his penchant for brown suede shoes. He has, however, also a bit of a reputation for gaffes. Whilst Health Secretary in the late 1980s he denied that junior doctors worked excessive hours and claimed they were lying … Read more

Ian Tomlinson unlawfully killed

The jury at the inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson on the day of the G20 protests in London two years ago has found that Mr. Tomlainson was unlawfully killed and that PC Simon Harwood used “excessive and unreasonable” force in striking him. Mr Tomlinson, who was not taking part in the protests in London, posed no threat, the jury added. Criminal proceedings could reopen against Pc Harwood after jurors ruled he acted illegally, recklessly and dangerously. Last year, … Read more

Thoughts on the saga of Hazel Stewart

The saga of the murders of Trevor Buchannan and Lesley Howell has all the ingredients of a horrible human interest story or a perfect opportunity for voyeurism depending on one’s views. It has had a perfect; practically Shakespearian villain who finally seized with remorse has told all for the benefit of his soul and for all of our fascinated, sickened, voyeuristic enjoyment. Along with that there is Lady Macbeth herself: the calculating cold she devil who murdered her husband and … Read more

Free speech and insult: Britain and America

The Americans sometimes claim to be the world’s greatest democracy and the rest of the world enjoys laughing at and mocking such comments. Their commitment to free speech is, however, at times highly impressive. The Westboro Baptist Church campaigns against homosexuality by having protests at the funerals of American soldiers killed in the line of duty. At these protests they have banners suggesting “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”, “You’re Going to Hell” and “God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11”. … Read more

Jo Yeates landlord no longer suspect

Chris Jefferies The landlord of Jo Yeates the young woman from Bristol who was murdered late last year has been released from police bail and is no longer being treated as a suspect. Mr. Yeates owned the flat which Ms. Yeates and her partner lived in. He was initially arrested a number of days following Ms. Yeates’ murder. Following that arrest Mr. Jefferies became the target of frenzied media speculation. He was heavily involved in his local neighbourhood watch and … Read more

Jackie McDonald demands recognition for UDA

Jackie McDonald one of the UDA’s self styled “Brigadiers” has been speaking to the Belfast Telegraph. McDonald’s ire seems largely directed at Tom Elliott, who unlike McDonald did actually defend Ulster as part of the UDR: McDonald preferred being a leader of the yabba dabba doo any taig will do UDA. It seems that Mr. McDonald is vexed that Tom Elliott did not mention the UDA in his leader’s speech: “When they (unionist political leaders) don’t speak about us, they … Read more

Colin Howell should be released by 2014?

The story of Colin Howell had all the necessary ingredients to excite those with an interest in crime stories. The villain was a successful, respectable member of the community; a religious man, a family man who went on to commit what looked like a perfect murder. The police were apparently a bit suspicious about the double suicide of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell but even a non lawyer can see that trying to prosecute Howell when there was an apparently … Read more

Photograph of the day – Re-categorised

I’d heard tell of a campaign for people to move Tony Blairs memoir to the crime section in bookshops and in two separate bookshops today it seems that some folks are doing so. Moochin PhotomanPhotographer and visual artist based in Belfast. I have facilitated community based workshops with groups as diverse as visually impaired individuals in Dungannn, Travellers across Northern Ireland, Young Offenders and many community groups across Belfast. My work has exhibited extensively here in Northern Ireland in group … Read more