Friday, October 24, 2014

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They Are Not Your Sons! But What if They Were?

TPQ features an overview of the appeal case of John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville. Today the men's legal representatives will make an application to have the case brought to the Supreme Court in London. The overview was put together by Stephen Geraghty (LLm llb) who is a human rights activist and a member of the Justice for the Craigavon 2 Committee.

A chronological overview of the court of appeal case of the Queen-v- John Paul Wootton & Brendan McConville.

Brendan McConville

Court of appeal continues to erode fundamental human rights protections.

The decision to dismiss the case appeal of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton on Thursday 29/05/2014 by the Court of Appeal judges, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Coughlin in Belfast High court, was absolutely dumfounding. The victims of this ongoing miscarriage of justice; the two men, their, families, supporters and legal teams were clearly shocked and speechless at the outcome.

It is without doubt that the above mentioned will be most profoundly affected by this extremely bizarre and flawed legal decision, however until this case is overturned it may have profound impact on any citizen that is unfortunate enough go through this dubious legal practice. The danger presented by the outcome of this case by the highest court in the six counties jurisdiction cannot be overstated, it may set in place dangerous precedent that will erode fundament human rights protections that have evolved over centuries.

Case overview

On the 9th March, 2009 Police Constable Stephen Carroll was shot and killed while responding to an emergency 999 call in the Craigavon area. The following day police arrived at the home of Brendan McConville, a local republican, and placed him under arrest. Later that morning, John Paul Wootton, another republican from the area, was arrested in the Craigavon area and had his vehicle seized.

Both men were taken to County Antrim for interrogation where they, along with a number of other individuals, were detained while the vehicle owned by John Paul Wootton was taken to Maydown Barracks in County Derry for examination. Some day’s later police recovered the weapon used in the shooting from the rear garden of a house in the Pinebank housing estate in Craigavon. Around the same time a brown jacket with traces of DNA from Brendan McConville amongst others, and minute residue which was claimed might have come from a firearm but possibly something else, was taken from the boot of the vehicle owned by John Paul Wootton.

Based on this finding, and under intense pressure to get results, PSNI focused their attentions on these two men and set about constructing a case against them. The reason the police were under so much pressure was that Constable Carroll was the first police officer to be killed since the Good Friday Agreement, however a fact that is probably much more important and that has still not been highlighted or investigated, is that there have been allegations made, backed up with evidence, that a covert British state agent may have been involved in the killing, in effect indirectly implicating the British state and its military agencies in this atrocity. Adding to the pressure; was the fact that this shooting took place within days of an attack on Masssereen Army Barracks where two British soldiers were killed in similar circumstances.

It later transpired that the car owned by John Paul Wootton had been subject to covert surveillance at the time of the attack by means of a tracking device which had been hidden either in or on the vehicle by the British Military. This device provided data on the movement of the vehicle around the time of the shooting. It would later come to light that data from this device was wiped while the device was still in the possession of the Army. No one could explain why this had happened. The remainder of the data was used to construct a circumstantial yet arguably weak case against the two men.

Eleven months after the shooting a local man contacted the police in the middle of the night on Valentines night and, under the influence of alcohol, claimed to have seen Brendan McConville close to the area from which the shooting occurred on the night of the shooting. It should be borne in mind that in the eleven months from the shooting to this man’s statement, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton had been charged with the shooting and their identities were widely broadcast throughout the media.

This man, known only to the court as Witness M, lied continuously under oath while giving evidence. For example M was adamant that he had no problems with his eyesight and when asked if he had been prescribed glasses he claimed that he did occasionally wear glasses, but only as a fashion item. It was only on day two of his testimony, when confronted with evidence acquired by Brendan McConville’s legal team from an optician in Lurgan where he had previously underwent an eyesight examination, that he conceded that he had been prescribed glasses but this time claimed that they were just for reading. Evidence later given in court would show that in fact Witness M suffered from both astigmatism and short sightedness and could only identify facial features up to half the distance at which he claimed to identify Brendan McConville. At the conclusion of the case a single notorious authoritarian British judge without a jury, relying heavily on circumstance and inference, found both men guilty and sentenced them to life in prison.

A chronological overview of the court of appeal case of the Queen-v- John Paul Wootton & Brendan McConville.

The first day observing at the court of appeal case of, the Queen-v- John Paul Wootton, Brendan McConville, was an extremely worrying and depressing episode. The two men were found guilty in 2012 by way of non-jury court for the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll.

It was worrying, because as the packed court house, listened to the evidence presented by Barry McDonald QC; it became evident that the two men sitting in the dock could have been almost anyone that was unfortunate enough to have been logistically handpicked as guinea pigs for this debacle. It was depressing because the two men, a parent, Brendan McConville, (42) and John Paul Wootton, who was legally a minor (17) at the time of his arrest, now twenty three, had been incarcerated for five years, largely on the word of the chief prosecution witness; Witness M. Witness M’s evidential testimony was not only beyond belief but at times totally farcical. It was noted that, witness M had been described by a close family member in a sworn affidavit as a Walter Mitty character, that made up stories, “he had a fertile imagination and you could not believe anything he said…he had the habit of making up stories and was such a compulsive liar that, you couldn't believe anything he said…Witness M lives in a world of his own and would often say things that simply weren't true." Also we heard in evidence that witness M was allegedly coerced by PSNI investigators and offered incentives to provide the testimony that was required; it was clear to any reasonable person that the evidence lacked any sense of integrity.

It would be the opinion, that this witness and his evidence should never have been admissible in an objective court of law, nor would it have ever passed muster by any reasonable jury, if one had ever been appointed. The extremely worrying issue about this case is that in 2012, with all the international and domestic legal safeguards that are supposedly in place, for example the European Convention of Human Rights and its provisions by way of the Human Rights Act (1998), specifically Article 6 Right to a Fair Trial, did not act as a shield and were effectively thrown on their head. Like any process the judicial system is only as strong as its weakest link, in this case the weak link was without doubt, the non-jury diplock type court.

The afternoon of the second day observing at the court of appeal case was another extremely worrying episode. It was illustrated to the court that John Paul Wootton was going to be proved guilty regardless of the evidence that was made available.

Arthur Harvey QC strongly insisted that no role in the shooting was ever attributed to Wootton. He said that the trial judge gave non evidence an elevated position when making his decisions leading to the conviction. “There was not simply a dearth, but a total absence of evidence to connect the defendant to any specific act relevant to the murder of Constable Carroll…The quality of work from the forensic scientists representing the prosecution in this case was lamentable…it failed to conform to even the most fundamental basic requirements and was predicated upon, as one can ultimately see...a conclusion which was to be propelled by an already predetermined destination, namely those particles on that jacket came from the firearm event that evening."

Harvey went on to describe how the resulting factor, that was to convict John Paul Wootton, was based on the ‘prisoners fallacy’ if he smiled he was guilty, if he frowned he was guilty, if had shown no emission he was guilty, if he was emotional he was guilty. In other words the original trial judge had a pre-determined mind-set that John Paul Wootton was guilty. The question remains why?

The third day observing at the court of appeal case lay out bare, for all to see, the extreme dangers of a non-jury trial that is; giving absolute power, authority and discretion to a single judge. At the conclusion of the third day’s hearing, it is obvious that the case fell far short of a conviction essential in a criminal trial, which is beyond reasonable doubt, it would be the opinion it even fell well short of the civil standard a balance of probabilities, primarily because there is no evidence. In today’s hearing, the three appeal court judges asked the crown prosecution about how Justice Girvan came to make decisions regarding drawing negative inference and bad character when it was put to the prosecution, that he had misdirected himself by drawing inference and bad character before viewing the evidence rather than drawing inference and bad character from the evidence, the prosecution did not respond. It had been suggested that the original trial judge had made a leap between conjecture and opinion to proof beyond reasonable doubt to determine guilt is this case. It would be the opinion a leap is understated; it could better be described as a transatlantic flight.

Prosecutors insisted that John Paul Wootton’s car was near the scene of the attack and driven off within minutes of the killing. However, the defence team maintain that no evidence exists to link Wootton to any role in the shooting and the evidence regarding the car comes from the tracking device which was corrupted by covert British security services. Residue found on a coat with a slight forensic link to McConville was later recovered from the vehicle. Some of the residue could have come from another source, the Court of Appeal heard.

Questioned on whether it could be proven that the coat was at the firing point on the night of the killing, prosecution Counsel Ciaran Murphy QC said he could prove a connection with the relevant particles. Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan then asked: "Are you proving beyond reasonable doubt that the weapon was transported in Mr Wootton's car? “The barrister replied: "No." Justice Morgan continued: "Are you proving beyond reasonable doubt that Mr McConville was transported in Mr Wootton's car." Again the response was: "No."

Barrister Murphy contended that scientific evidence connected the murder weapon; an AK47 assault rifle which was later recovered, to the jacket. After it was pointed out to him that some of the discharge could have come from a different incident. During exchanges Lord Chief Justice questioned: "The Crown accepts there's at least a possibility there was some other source which was responsible for some of the gunshot residue. “How then do you get from knowing there's another source as well as the gun that was recovered to concluding that other source was not responsible for the entirety of the gunshot residue?” According to Mr Murphy the surrounding circumstances provided the answer. (From a legal perspective, we are unsure what this is supposed to mean.) Ironically it was crown Counsel, Mr Murphy that highlighted "a sufficient case for the trial judge to reach a conclusion that he was satisfied that at least some of these particles originated from the weapon that night",

Also Mr Murphy was forced to defend an account given by a key prosecution witness at the trial. Earlier defence lawyers attacked his credibility, branding him a compulsive liar and a Walter Mitty-type character whose allegations of what he saw on the night of the shooting were "farcical". The defence pointed out how he had phoned the PSNI to make his allegations eleven months after the event, making the call after drinking into the early hours of the morning. However, Mr Murphy said: "He was aware in his own mind of the consequences. “The fact he was drinking at the time has little bearing other than to explain how he may personally have felt and to get up the courage to do what he did because he was nervous and said he had seen someone watching his house on different occasions”.

The fourth day observing at the court of appeal case, evidence was submitted that the PSNI "went out of their way to sabotage" the appeal process by two men’s legal teams. The defence strongly advised that the PSNI tried to "nobble" a witness who would discredit key prosecution evidence. In the original trial, a witness known as witness M testified he had seen McConville near the scene of the killing. Defence Barrister said the relative believes that witness M is a compulsive liar and a Walter Mitty character. Brendan McConville's legal team told the three Appeal Court Judges on a Friday before the original appeal in April 2013, that the police "went out of their way to sabotage" the appeal process, by arresting the new witness and detaining him for two days before releasing him. It had been made known to JWI that this witness now fears for his life, as a result of the PSNI activity and is genuinely terrified to stand in the court to give evidence. Defence and Prosecution put forward brief arguments regarding the admissibility of the new witness’s affidavit. However the three Judges insisted that the witness would need to attend the court to be questioned on the matter and a subpoena was issued for his attendance on Monday 14/10/2013.

The court also heard that the Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe and the former governor of Maghaberry Prison, Steve Rodford, are to be called to give evidence next week. Closing of the Prosecution argument; they shockingly conceded that there is no evidence directly linking either John Paul Wootton or Brendan McConville to the fatal shooting of Constable Stephen Carroll but rather "when you take a global view of the evidence and then draw inference on that evidence" the men must be found guilty! (It is the opinion that this argument has no legal foundation). The three appeal judges constantly put it to the prosecution that they could not prove beyond reasonable doubt any of their claims. The prosecutions answer was legally ambiguous stating; that taken altogether these unproven strands somehow proved guilt.

To conclude on the first week of this increasingly bizarre case, it is the opinion that if this was any other civilised democratic jurisdiction there would be a public outcry with massive media attention. Unfortunately there was not, this still remains the case, there has been barley any reports from the media regarding the appeal outcome.

The fifth day observing at the court of appeal case again highlighted the extreme vulnerabilities of the non-jury, single judge judicial system. Today the three Court of Appeal Judges heard the close relative of witness M, state that Witness M “is a liar…no-one should be jailed on the word of the key witness”. He added that he was "99% sure" witness M had gave a wrong account of his movements on the night Stephen Carroll was killed. He was known as a Walter Mitty character and said: "He actually believes his own lies."

The Defence team for Brendan McConville explained to the court that the man who branded witness M a liar was arrested earlier this year and held by police in a bid to sabotage their case. As a result, he was subpoenaed to attend the Court of Appeal to be questioned about his assessment of witness M and about a covert surveillance operation said to have been carried out at his home. He explained to Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Higgins and Lord Justice Coghlin that his home, phone and car were all bugged. The man claimed that while in custody police tried to get him to retract everything in his affidavit.

Asked by Barry McDonald QC for McConville if he was prepared to do that, he replied: "No, it was the truth…I didn't want to see anybody in prison on the word of witness M because I know what he's like. He told the court he “had not been coerced, threatened or forced into signing his statement”. The man also told the court that he was aware that he was under security service surveillance. The man told how he threw away one mobile phone after he believed he had discovered it was bugged. Another device discovered in the boot of his car was thrown down the toilet. He stated. "My nerves are shattered."

The witness, confirmed that; what most reasonable people might have already ascertained, that a witness that phones the police, eleven months after an incident, while heavily intoxicated, his statement should treated with the upmost caution. Coupled with the fact he was contradictory while sober and had been offered incentives to provide his evidence, should at some point raise alarm bells and his evidence, be downgraded or should have been dismissed.

The Sixth day observing at the court of appeal case opened up a Pandora’s Box, releasing evidence of state agency criminality, complicity and collusion. The day began with Witness M’s close relative finishing his submission to the court. Counsel for the prosecution Ciaran Murphy QC, questioned his integrity for almost an hour. The elderly defence witness who was physically in a state of stress remained steadfast. When the prosecution asked about propensity to mislead, he rebutted their allegation, with a number of questions. “Can you give specific’s” he asked, the crown counsel; with the aid of a second barrister the crown was unable to do so. The witness for the defence also questioned the reasoning why the security service had him under surveillance for over two years, he asked why, when he was being severely harassed by “local hoods” (young people that engage in anti-social behaviour) including burning a bus outside his front door, they never seemed to intervene? Crown Counsel had no answers.

Later on in the day during questioning by the defence for Brendan McConville, it was highlighted that, Witness M's close relative was arrested in April, in what defence lawyer’s claim was an attempt to "sabotage" the appeal. A detective who questioned Witness M's close relative was called to give evidence. Barry McDonald QC put it to the detective that the "point of the arrest" was to put pressure on Witness M's father to withdraw his statement. The detective replied: "That's incorrect".

Two senior public servants gave evidence on this day; Mr. Rodford and Mrs. McCabe were questioned amid defence claims that police were intent on prosecuting McConville at all costs. Part of their case is that after the note with the personal details of Mr. Rodford who at the time was the Governor of Maghaberry prison was discovered in Brendan McConville’s remand cell in September 2009. PSNI detectives failed to investigate his allegations that it had been planted. Ex-Prisoners Ombudsman Mrs. McCabe also provided written evidence that PSNI investigators had made requests to Mr. Rodford to add a sentence to his statement, when they visited him at a hotel room where he and his wife had been relocated to soon after the find.

Mrs. McCabe was the Prison Ombudsman for five years ending in May 2013. It was her office and investigators who compiled a report which concluded that a note found in McConville’s cell upon which details of the Prison Governors car registration were found did not originate from Mr. McConville but were ‘with a balance of probabilities’ planted by a member of the Prison Staff. She also highlighted that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) were intent to prosecute Brendan McConville for this offence, despite the fact there had never been ‘an adequate investigation’. After a meeting between Mrs. McCabe with her legal advisor and senior members of the PPS, the PPS chief Bara McGrory’s office withdrew the prosecution. Furthermore Mrs. McCabe appealed to no less than three senior members of the PSNI to initiate a full criminal investigation of the circumstance of the prison cell fiasco, the latest in 2013 before her departure in May this year. To date no proper investigation has ever been conducted. It also came to light that the early inadequate PSNI inquiries of the ‘cell plant’ were being carried out by a senior PSNI officer that was involved in the Stephen Carroll Murder case. Justice Watch Ireland (JWI) is of the opinion that if it was not for the due diligence, professionalism and courage of Mrs. McCabe; Brendan McConville, might have easily been charged and convicted with a second offence that he did not commit as a result of the ‘cell plant’.

Steve Rodford, also gave evidence to the three Court of Appeal judges today, he is the former governor of Maghaberry prison. It was his details that were planted in Brendan McConville’s cell.

Rodford stated that he believed some staff tried to intimidate him by the alleged planting of a note containing his car registration details in the cell of McConville. Mr. Rodford then quit his post in December that year, just months after taking over. He told the Court of Appeal of his unproven "gut feeling" that a member of staff was behind the note. At the time he was trying to implement changes at the prison, including the "extremely unpopular" disbandment of the Standby Search Team (SST). Recalling how he felt on being informed of the find by one of those officers, he said:

The smug manner in which he approached me…The feeling as I remember thinking quite strongly the prison was out of control…That was how it felt to me, the prison had many members of staff there that were way out of control, the way they were operating as prison officers.

The senior English public servants that clearly would have no axe to grind with the state authorities highlighted that when senior, highly respected staff try to make progressive change in the administration of the six counties they are met with belligerence and backlash. Without the honestly, professionalism and strength of these two individuals, the case against Brendan McConville may have possibility been copper fastened.

The seventh day observing at the court of appeal case shone a poor light onto the PSNI investigation into the killing one of their colleagues in March 2009. Central to the prosecution case was the evidence of a man identified as Witness M who claimed to have seen Brendan McConville in the area around the time of the killing. However, this man's father has now testified to the Court of Appeal that his son was a compulsive liar and Walter Mitty-type character who could not have been there. Witness M’s father was arrested and detained overnight on suspicion of withholding information before being released without charge.

The entire day, the three court of Appeal judges heard testimony from what must have been, one the most belligerent and obstructive witness’s ever to take a stand, and not be prosecuted for contempt of court. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Richard Harkness attached to the Serious Crime Branch E district of the PSNI, had worked in the same PSNI division as Constable Stephen Carroll, although it was stated that they were unknown to each other.

Harkness was also the lead investigator into the incident in Maghaberry prison where it has been alleged by the former Governor of the establishment, Steven Rodford and former Prison Ombudsman Mrs. Pauline McCabe that prison staff had attempted to fit McConville up. They both believed that somebody working within that organization had planted information concerning Rodford in McConville’s cell. Based on the prisoner ombudsman's findings allegedly being lost for a period in the PSNI's system, the defence Barrister Barry McDonald QC said: ‘The police wanted to build up a picture against McConville which could be used in the murder investigation which you, as it happened, were also leading.’ Harkness replied ‘That is untrue.’

It was also brought to the courts attention that; procedures normally in place that would have enabled the local police command in Lisburn district CID to investigate this crime were not followed and that DCI Harkness and his team who were investigating the murder of Constable Carroll where put in charge. Counsel for Brendan McConville, McDonald QC, asked the detective ‘how did you come to be appointed to investigate the incident at Maghaberry’. Harkness replied that he had no recollection of why he was picked.

Under cross examination DCI Harkness agreed that he wanted to ascertain if the find had any bearing on the Stephen Carroll case and that the note afforded the police the opportunity to delve for more intelligence held within the prison which may throw light on the Carroll murder inquiry.

As we heard throughout his testimony, Harkness had tendency to bestow responsibility to junior staff, seemingly, preferring to direct, without taking hands-on responsibility of any investigation, which at times was fortunate for purposes of damage limitation. The cell plant enquiry was one such an example, as he passed the investigation onto one of his team allowing him to take on a supervisory role.

At no time did Harkness’s investigation team explore the complaint by Brendan McConville that the material had been planted in his cell. The court was told by Harkness that on completion of the investigation a file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) with no recommendation on how the PPS should proceed.

Defence Barrister, McDonald QC, produced a document sent by Harkness’s team member Detective Constable Brannigan to the PPS which outlined that he had actually recommended that the PPS should prosecute Brendan McConville for having details relating to the Rodfords car in his cell.

The defence legal team submitted to the court that the PSNI team investigating the Carroll murder for which Brendan McConville was facing trial was also the team to investigate the cell plant in Maghaberry and that the PSNI were only concerned with building another criminal case against Brendan McConville.

When the PSNI at Lisburn CID made enquiries into the cell plant under a separate investigation, it accepted Brendan McConvilles claims that the material was planted. It was highlighted that these PSNI investigators searched the homes of two serving members of the Prison Service and they were both questioned under charges of perverting the course of justice and abuse of a position of trust.

In the afternoon of the seventh day, defence barrister McDonald tried in vain to get a plausible answer into why DCI Harkness felt the need to arrest Witness M’s father after he signed and submitted a sworn affidavit, to assist the courts in the appeal process. DCI Richard Harkness stated earlier that:

I had reason to believe the witness was under immense pressure from persons who would not have the interests of justice at heart and would not think twice about inflicting serious violence on people if they didn't get their own way.

The detective replied that he had other information prior to the operation that indicated the man had been held against his will. He stated ‘May I suggest there was material in those surveillance transcripts which indicated to me something untoward had taken place involving the new witness and armed men’.

However, the defence barrister questioned why police waited for ten days to go and speak to him if they had such fear for his safety. The detective repeatedly refused to disclose details surrounding intelligence in the case, citing the potential threat to the safety of some of those involved. He stated that ‘There are people listening to what I'm saying, who may use this information and I do not wish to go into specifics... I have to walk a tightrope, so I don't increase any Article 2 risks’.

It was alleged by the defence team, that after his affidavit was submitted, the PSNI investigators, under the guidance of Harkness took all steps to persuade the witness to retract his evidence. In effect the PSNI investigators had tried to interfere with due process under the law.

Harkness with his best James Bond hat on stated that he was relying on secret evidence not available to the court or the defence but had been seen by the PPS senior prosecuting counsel and senior PSNI personnel. (So much for full disclosure)

The defence illustrated that Harkness’s team used covert surveillance audio bugging devices in the home, car and phones belonging to witness M’s father, and that they were well aware that the man was under no threat by anybody, when submitting his affidavit.

Defence team for McConville suggested that the real reason Harkness arrested Witness M’s father was a desperate last ditch effort to subvert the law, so as to ensure the convictions of Brendan McConville stayed. Defence Barrister, McDonald QC highlighted that the claims of intimidation were rejected in subsequent PSNI interviews with witness M’s Father and witness M’s siblings.

McDonald QC asked: ‘Is it not the case Det Ch Insp Harkness that this became not so much an investigation as a mission? Harkness replied: ‘That is not true.’ The barrister then asked: ‘Did you think it led you to maybe overstep the mark?’ Harkness replied: ‘That is completely untrue’. Furthermore McDonald highlighted that Harnkess made no real attempt to interview the partner of witness M, as it would have proved the dishonest account of Witness M’s movements he had given to the PSNI on the night of Constable Carroll killing. . Harkness, only response was that he did not interview the woman, ‘because she was not from the area’.

The court adjourned for a short time, defence barrister had asked the appeal judges to request the prosecution to disclose if surveillance of witness M’s father that would have had proved witness Ms father had never been abducted and threatened by armed men or indeed if surveillance was in place before witness M’s father signed his affidavit.

If the information was made available to the court and it is proven that Harkness, had access to this information it clearly proves that Harkness is dishonest and lacks credibility. It will also raise issues why the PPS and the Crown prosecution service have withheld important disclosure information from the defence and Court of Appeal. Harkness was pursued by McDonald QC, he was asked whether it was a coincidence that within 40 minutes of being informed of the affidavit being filed by Witness M's father, the intelligence said to back up the perceived threat to his safety came through.

Harkness told the judges:

This matter has been reviewed within the highest levels of the PSNI, the Public Prosecution Service and senior counsel in this case… I have been accused of sabotage, I have been accused of nobbling a witness very publicly and I would suggest to you, my lords, if the people who reviewed this material had any concerns, they would have referred me for investigation to the Police Ombudsman's office and I have no doubt that they would have alerted (defence lawyer) Mr McDonald QC to those concerns.

McDonald QC maintained:

This was just a last-ditch attempt to rescue a case that you could see heading off the rails…You had him arrested in order to either pressure him to withdrawing his affidavit or, failing that, so you could cross-examine him in a police station under threat of criminal prosecution.

The eighth and final day observing at the court of appeal case of, the Queen-v- John Paul Wootton, Brendan McConville, counsel for Brendan McConville Barry McDonald QC highlighted to the Court of Appeal’s three judges that police had subverted and manipulated appeal proceedings he stated that ‘detectives' bias’ had undermined confidence in the prosecutions. He made the statement today as Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Richard Harkness completed his testimony. Harkness in his own contemptible way, he provided a document which he said had materialised overnight; that proved that witness M’s father was under threat, although he admitted that not even the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) or Crown Counsel had been made aware of the text, nor was he prepared to reveal the origins of this mysterious document.

The highly respected Defence barrister Barry McDonald’s patience seemed to run short with this prosecution witness. McDonald, in his submission to the court reaffirmed that; central to the prosecution case was the evidence of a man identified only as Witness M who claimed to have seen McConville in the area around the time of the killing. But this man's father has now testified to the Court of Appeal that his son is a liar and Walter Mitty-type character who couldn't have been there. PSNI were lambasted for arresting Witness M's father after he supplied an affidavit accusing his son of dishonesty. The elderly man was detained following a covert surveillance operation at his home on suspicion of withholding information before being released without charge. McDonald QC, added that; ‘His evidence tends to establish the abuse of process of which we complain…specifically his arrest, detention and interrogation represented a subversion of the appeal processes. Dismissing the belief that the man had been abducted by gunmen, McDonald claimed PSNI refused to consider the possibility that he supplied his affidavit voluntarily.

McDonald stated:

This gives rise to issues about the rule of law and the respective roles of police and the courts…Witnesses should be cross-examined in court by counsel under judicial supervision in accordance with the laws of evidence. It’s not open to police to pre-empt appeals, no matter how important the case may be, by arresting a witness and then subjecting him to interrogation in police custody under threat that he's liable to be charged with a serious criminal offence if he doesn't withdraw his affidavit…With the defence unable to interfere with prosecution witnesses, that the same rules should apply for both sides…police conduct clearly had a chilling effect both on Witness M's father and on anyone else who might dare to come forward to give evidence which would not support the prosecution case.

McDonald, explained to Chief Justice Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Higgins and Lord Justice Coghlin the father's testimony:

effectively destroys the evidence on which this entire prosecution hinged, the evidence of Witness M’… no attempt had been made to challenge core claims by the new witness that his son was a dishonest fantasist who believed his own lies and was in many ways a pathetic character to be pitied rather than blamed.

McDonald did not end there, again Scornful of the PSNI for their failure to investigate the possibility that a note found in McConville's remand cell in 2009 with the car registration details of the Maghaberry Prison governor had been planted by jail staff. When former prisoner ombudsman Pauline McCabe reached that probable conclusion, the senior investigating officer blamed her for ‘clouding the waters’ on the chances of successfully prosecuting McConville for the discovery, Mr McDonald told the court; ‘it may also reflect the detective's attitude on the evidence in the murder inquiry. ‘All of that indicates, we say, a lack of fairness and impartiality on the part of this investigation, the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll; to such an extent that confidence in the integrity of this prosecution process is undermined’. He pressed that the judges should quash the conviction, he concluded; ‘The net effect was that the police did manipulate this appeal in more ways than one’.

Later on in proceedings, the case from the Crown Prosecution contended that John Paul Wootton's car was near the scene of the attack and driven off within minutes of the killing. However, his legal team insist absolutely no evidence exists to link him to any role in the shooting. Arthur Harvey QC strongly insisted that no role in the shooting was ever attributed to Wootton. He said that the trial judge gave non evidence an elevated position when making his decisions leading to the conviction.

There was not simply a dearth, but a total absence of evidence to connect the defendant to any specific act relevant to the murder of Constable Carroll…The quality of work from the forensic scientists representing the prosecution in this case was lamentable…it failed to conform to even the most fundamental basic requirements and was predicated upon, as one can ultimately see...a conclusion which was to be propelled by an already predetermined destination, namely those particles on that jacket came from the firearm event that evening.

Following closing submissions Chief Justice Declan Morgan said all material put before the court had to be considered before a verdict is reached. He confirmed: ‘We will reserve our judgment but we will give it as soon as we can’. Over six months after the appeal case began and six months of adjudication or more possibly manulipition of the evidence presented, on the 29/05/2014 the three senior British Judges bizarrely dismissed the appeal.

JWI firmly believe that the court of Appeal case that began on the 8/10/2013 highlighted among other issues that case against the men was so fundamentally flawed and corrupt it should have been dismissed due to the fact that the evidence used inconclusive, contradictory and in discredited, an appeal case that public prosecution service admitted that case was not proved beyond reasonable doubt. The fact is, that both men find themselves victims of a system that sought to find suitable scapegoats in the wake of the political and media backlash following the Killing of Stephen Carroll.

JWI has carried out a comprehensive review of all the information available in the case of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton and we are without doubt, that both men have been denied the Right to a Fair Trial as set out in Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Furthermore for a human rights advocate or legal practitioner the case of what has become known as the Craigavon 2 is extremely distressing and worrying. One such assumption or inference is that the on-going case is extremely sinister and politically motivated. Possibly as way of revenge or more likely; that the state authorities logistically choose individuals as a human sacrifice. Used as a way to intimidate all persons in that society that refuse to conform, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton have always been proud outspoken anti-colonial republicans. This policy, fly’s in the face of the genuine expectation of any citizen in a legitimate democracy in which, political opposition is a necessity. Furthermore in 1998, the people of the Ireland were promised a ’new dispensation’ a society with a political and legal system that would be open and transparent. The people overwhelming supported the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Unfortunately since the re-election of the British Conservative Party in 2010, the very basic GFA is in the process of being dismantled. During this process and in cases such as with the current elected right wing British political party not only breached the GFA, obliterating the rights, hopes and aspirations of the Irish people, they have also breached their own basic principles on the rule of law, due process under the law and the right to fair trial. As a result they have breached international and domestic human rights protections and illustrated that non-conformity will be met with authoritarian rule and injustice.

Throughout the trial the families of the two men being supported by a long list of human rights activists, this included iconic miscarriage of justice survivor, Gerry Conlon, human rights advocate Monsignor Raymond Murray, Tony Catney, human rights groups from home and abroad including Rights Watch UK, four of the most respected free thinking Irish Politicians from Dáil Éireann, namely, Clare Daly, Éamon Ó Cuív, Maureen O'Sullivan and Mick Wallace.

Justice Watch Ireland fully advocates the rule of law and right to fair trial and does not wish to take away from the suffering and loss of the family and friends of Constable Stephen Carroll. However it is our firm belief that Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton are innocent of the charges in which they were convicted, it defeats the purpose of justice that innocent people are jailed while the guilty go free. The first day of proceedings, are synopsis of the entire case; questionable police activity, no real evidence, inadequate judicial process, as a result, we would ask people to look objectively at the facts of this case. Although the two men involved may not be your brother, son, father, friend but ask yourself, what if they were?

With that said, JWI are committed to the case of these two men, we are committed to assisting the families, supporters and legal teams in any way we can. Unfortunately we believe that this case, due to the high political stakes now involved will not get a fair hearing within the British legal system, as a result, will need to go through the charade of exhausting all domestic remedies. With that said, options now include as well as an appeal to the British Supreme Court, also the Criminal Cases Review Commission CCRC. The CCRC is an independent public body that was set up in March 1997 by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. Its purpose is to review possible miscarriages of justice in the criminal courts of England, Wales and the six county jurisdiction and refer appropriate cases to the appeal courts. If this all fails the two men will possibly have to through the onerous and lengthy task to find possible remedy in the European Court of Human Rights.

To conclude, JWI are convinced that any reasonable citizen that looks at the case with objectivity will see clearly that evidence used alongside twisted perceptions to uphold discredited an inconclusive forensics, the use of vulnerable, impressionable and discredited witnesses all contrived to put Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton in Jail for life is without any legal merit and sets dangerous precedent for us all.

It would appear that they may have been intentionally handpicked as scapegoats, to bring closure and cover up this atrocity. Both these victims live in one of most socially deprived areas in Western Europe, one a disillusioned Sinn Fein political representative, the other an angry teenager, from an area with few prospects. These facts, along with their Celtic vista including their bright red hair allowed the eager acquiescent and logistically placed media along with state agents to conduct their witch-hunt and help ensure guilt. Or possibly just bizarre set of coincidences, the fact is we will possibly never know, due to the fact that this case is marinated with the handiwork of British secret security services most likely MI5. History tells us that these people never have to disclose their dirty deeds in a public court of law. They claim it is for the protection of ‘national security’. However the fact is, these individuals and groups lack any form of accountability and transparency, operate above the law, and are the true threat to the democratic process and international security. JWI request that the British and Irish governments; rein in, muzzle and keep on a short lease these public paid servants before they create further devastation. To conclude, we ask that citizens do not take the word of JWI, we request that all informed citizens review this case with as much of the evidence as humanely possible; the conclusion will be no doubt be alarming. It will illustrate that Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton could have easily been you!

Gareth Pierce


frankie said...

That's is one 'funky' case.. I had to read it several times. My guess is this They were framed/set up because they made too much noise in the Craigavon/Lurgan area and were exposing the myths behind PSF..(Brendan McConville was deffo making too much noise and embarrassing PSF)..

It's similar in a lot of ways to Alec McCory, Colin Duffy and Harry Fitzsimons case.. Stinks. For a while before Alec was arrested he was documenting in the media and here on TPQ about spooks following him, tapping his phone etc.. Then he's arrested..Colin Duffy is similar, they've tried to stitch him up several times.. Again I think It is for the same reason, they were making to much noise and upsetting the status-quo and exposing the myth behind PSF today..

diplockcourts said...

I would make one observation about "options now include" ...because time is of the essence.

If there are no points of law to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court then application to the ECtHR should be prioritized. The ECtHR is absolute about its 6 month rule.

The ECtHR may not view application to the CCRC first as valid reason not to observe its 6 month rule. However, application to the ECtHR would not exclude a simultaneous application to the CCRC.

Andy said...

Why don't the people who committed this murder own up and provide information to help release these two fellas if they are indeed innocent?

If it's truth and justice you truly seek then where's the pressure within the Republican community to facilitate this.

Or typically will you all shout and moan at everyone bar yourselves when the actual solution stares you right in the face.