Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Dermot Ahern's Criminal Justice Amendment Bill

Do you trust the police? Are you one of those people who believe that if you do no wrong, you will never find yourself on the wrong side of the law? Well, there is a tempting simplicity to such a view, but we all know by now that life isn’t temptingly simple.

Take the Birmingham Six, who had 16 years of their lives stolen from them by the police in Britain. They were convicted on the basis of concocted evidence and violently extracted confessions at the hands of the coppers, and it took British Labour Party MP, Chris Mullen, to bring attention to their case with his excellent book “Error of Judgement”, which led to a campaign that eventually saw their release.

Remember too, that high-profile cases like this are the ones we hear about. There must be countless other people in prison for crimes they did not commit - an injustice compounded by the fact that the real perpetrators of the crimes continue to walk free.

And don’t for a minute think that such miscarriages of justice are confined to other countries. The Birmingham Six were convicted under emergency legislation introduced in Britain in the wake of the murder of innocent civillians in the IRA “campaign” of the time. Moral of the story? Emergency legislation, carried on the back of understandable public revulsion, is not necessarily a good thing.

Which brings us to Dermot Ahern. This man seems prepared to stoop to subterreanean levels to distract the public from the real problems his Government have created, and has followed up his recent “Blasphemy Law” with legislation to extend the use of the Special Criminal Court to tackle gangland crime, which is the cause of much justified pubic revulsion here.

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill passed its committee stage in the Dail (the Irish parliament) on July 7th, and will see jury trials “for gangland cases” abolished. It might be argued that any move to get around the intimidation of witnesses in cases of organised crime might be a good thing - so I’m open to persuasion on that one. However, the bill will also allow Gardai of any rank give “opinion evidence” about the existence of such a gang, which will not require corroboration.
There is a letter in today’s Irish Times, signed by 133 defence and prosection lawyers calling on the Government to withdraw the legislation. Their concern is that “opinion evidence from a garda must be understood as simply that – an opinion…… a garda on the beat – who may base it on a person’s previous convictions or from evidence upon which he/she will claim privilage and therefore not have to divulge where it came from – will be able to give and opinion which could result in conviction and sentence for a serious crime."
But maybe it all comes down to the original question: how much do you trust the police?

The Morris Tribunal found extensive corruption and criminal behaviour by gardai in Donegal, who tried to frame members of a family for murder. They also planted “evidence” on people, and hid guns and explosives which they “found” later and claimed as arms cache finds, to aid their promotion. Indeed, Morris himself reported that "The Tribunal has been staggered by the amount of indiscipline and insubordination it has found in the Garda Force.” And does anyone really think all this was a one-off, confined to Donegal? I think they would be na├»ve if they did.

So, if that is the case, is it really wise to allow the uncorroborated “opinion evidence” of a member of such a police force in a court of law? Could any conviction secured in this manner by considered safe?

It all comes down to how much you trust the police. And Dermot Ahern.

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14 comments:

Anonymous said...

guday mr gm coppers anywhere are not to be trusted , they are first and foremost a self serving tribe unable to admit that they are wrong, even if there are decent individuals among them the institution is nearly always corrupt and political and often treacherous,easy targets get nabbed major criminals are hardly ever caught, but dont go out without a light on bike ,hard to have any respect for them cheerio GM

Anonymous said...

GM - What to say about police - well I lived within a hand grenade's throw of the Crown of Cricklewood back in the days of the "Campaign" and watched as the polizei arrived to arrest one of my flatmates - he was off his face and a neighbour complained cos he knocked on her flat door covered in shit looking for a "toke" - ok fair enough - she freaked and called the boys in blue and they did their duty and arrested him but you know what - when my other flat mate (there were three of us) went down to find out where they were taking him the cops pulled him into their car too AND when I went down (foolishly now that I look at it in retrospect) to find out where they were taking my two buddies - those cops looked at me like I was just one more piece of Paddy meat for their stats at the following morning's court. Only reason they didn't take me too and incidentally if they had taken me I wouldn't be living in Tasmania now on account of the clean record provision with respect to the immigration to Australia policy. The only reason --- their car was already full!!! Cops aren't smart. They do what's expected of them in a kneejerk society. I was a lucky Paddy in London of the 70's- my friends weren't. Expect nothing from the cops and you shall receive it in abundance. Look to your elected representatives and hold the fuckers responsible and oh by the way - raise your kids really well - throw out your tvs and talk to the little guys so as at least the next generation is getting something of value from you. lots of love from Ponyboy
PS - Astronomy!!!!

Ella said...

It is foolish to believe that just because you are a member of an Garda you are an honest person of high morals and integrity, this is very wrong and it's dangerous of Dermot Ahern to want to amend the Criminal Justice Bill in this fashion. Mr. BH is quite correct when he says "easy targets get nabbed and major criminals are hardly ever caught.

I've attached details of some of Templemore's finest. And these people are to be believed in a court of law, criminal.

http://www.herald.ie/national-news/courts/female-garda-guilty-of-false-attack-claims-1774750.html

http://www.kerryman.ie/news/defence-lashes-garda-evidence-in-court-case-on-fatal-crash-1800951.html

http://www.examiner.ie/ireland/ideysnidey/rss2/

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0427/breaking50.htm

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-194529229.html

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0129/1232923372473.html

http://www.munster-express.ie/local-news/garda-found-guilty-of-harassment-and-theft/

The Gombeen Man said...

Mr BH - Yes, from what I can see here there are no-go areas that the coppers won't leave the comfort of the station for. But muggins like we ordinary Joes? That's more their style.

PB - Bad story from your time in London. And the thing is, if the bastardos had arrested you and done you for something (even relatively small) that would have adversely affected the rest of your life.

Had a not-so-nice experience with them in my own time in London after an anti-fash outing... but thankfully I think they'd been forced to clean up their act a bit by then and couldn't summarily beat you up because you were a paddy. That was about 1994 - glad it wasn't the 70's. Respect! (You'll have to explain the astronomy bit for me!).

Ella - What can I say? Evidence if any more were needed. Thanks for the links (sorry they are not clickable - something to do with Blogger). Some good stories there (but scary).

I remember the Shinners used to demand disbandment of the RUC (even as they removed peoples kneecaps themselves). I think we should all be calling for disbandment of the Garda. Root and branch reform at least, and sack them if they err even slightly.

Anonymous said...

this new amendment is nothing more than a liberty taking attempt. how could any believe very much from our so called gardai as true when not a week goes by that we dont see one of our finest facing charges themselves the most recent being a garda from rathfarnham being found guilty on corruption charges. would you buy a second car from him. el

Anonymous said...

this new amendment bill is only going to turn the country into a police run state.why should people have to take the word of a gardai without corroborration , when their collegues have been found to be lying through thier teeth to protect each other. what chance does any one have

Anonymous said...

we have a dry weather police force , they are corrupt , they confiscate drink and drugs from youths and use them for their own enjoyment , how can you trust them , now theres talk of letting a garda give a character reference in court against the crims , what happens if you get a copper that hates you , f,,,,,,,, ten years or more because you may have told him a few home truths , we live in a corrupt police state and thats it , one rule for them and another for us

The Gombeen Man said...

A "dry weather police force".

I think that sums it up nicely, Anon.

Anonymous said...

a lot of home truths are begining to hit people with the realisation that some cop that does not like you or members of your family can stand up in court and give uncorroborated evidence and get you sent up the river for years! they have been doing this for years already of that there is little doubt , with this new amendment it will give them carte blanche to pick and choose who to cart off whenever they like - welcome to the banana republic.what about the boys in blue who have been committing crimes for years ie solicting underage girls as a well known sergeant was convicted of & most recent the cop in tathfarnham awaiting sentence for giving info to his media buddies - no new rules for these i gather.

The Gombeen Man said...

I agree, Anon. These people are laying down the law for the rest of us, therefore shouuld beyond reproach. And too many off them put on long-term suspended leave when they should simply be sacked.

Ahern's law is a disgrace, and it's probably a greater disgrace that Fine Gael - the biggest "oppostion" party - supported it.

You're right - it's a Banana Republic.

Anonymous said...

this new amendment is going to put the country back into the dark ages & make a laugh of our constitutional rights, it,s all the usual crap from ahern just like bertie do every quick & no one will notice typical and to make matters worse the opposition support it - the country is being run by ajax & banjax. whatever happened to innocent till found guilty - this new law is quite the opposite.

Anonymous said...

another good result for our cities finest - as previously stated gaurda from rathfarnham found guilty of passing on info to journalist only to be given a fine & with the interview arranged for him from his old partner in crime [the sherrif] he,ll have no bother paying it. i can,t help but wonder if the journalist,s started writing info given to them by people who have been wronged by the gaurdai over the years & been wrongfully convicted on lies been believed by the courts would they be treated with the kid gloves afforded to ex gaurda mr mc nulty. i doubt it very much.

Anonymous said...

anon strikes again ! another of our so called defenders of the state convicted- it,s all so familiar now -from gaurds solicting underage girls through thier contacts in the red light areas to judges being found with thier computers full of what could only be described as despicible & vile images of children.and guess what?? the wrong date was printed on the warrant- so the poor judge was suspended on full pay ? until it was all brushed under the carpet. where was all thier new amendments then.typical banana republic lock the stables after the horses have bolted.one thing is for sure were these people not members of the judiciary or indeed the gaurdai i,ve no doubt they like thier ilk would be languishing in the confines of arbour hill with the rest of the hairy hand brigade.hasta luego

The Gombeen Man said...

Yep... these things happen far too frequently to be coincidence. And seems like it's only a small minority of us who get bothered by it all.