Thursday, October 9, 2014

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Turn up and Take Your Chances

The wheels of justice are renowned for grinding pretty slowly. In the case of imprisoned Irish republican Michael McKevitt, he is finding the Irish justice system not merely slow but static. The wheels are either flat or spinning. Whether punctured or fitted out with baldy tyres, they get no traction and justice remains as it was, neither done nor seen to be done.

McKevitt’s bid for immediate release on the grounds of having qualified for full remission after more than a decade in prison on the word of a witness with a reputation for being as straight as a corkscrew, is being thwarted by systemic judicial tardiness and a court roster system in a state of disarray.

The Supreme Court had earlier decided that this type of case should be heard by judicial review rather than constitutional challenge even though McKevitt is in no doubt that he has a constitutional right to be released from prison. This switch of legal lanes caused a delay in the case being processed but when it did eventually reach the point of being listed for hearing there was no judiciary available to hear it. As the Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign website claims ‘no judge, no hearing, no justice, no sense.’ 

It was only upon arrival in the High Court this week that McKevitt’s legal team learned that the case was postponed because of the non-availability of judges. This seems to be a feature only when freeing people is concerned. There is never a shortage of judges to incarcerate them. Were McKevitt to be arrested tomorrow morning for some minor misdemeanour, rest assured that by the afternoon some beak would be found to deal with the case.

President of the High Court Nicolas Kearns deferred the case complaining that there was an acute shortage of high court judges. He promised he would try to facilitate the case as soon as possible. But as a temporary remedy he suggested McKevitt’s legal team turn up in court each day like casual labourers forced to go to the docks on a daily basis in search of work and “take their chances.” These legal people, like the busy judges who have no time to hear their legal submissions, have heavy workloads and other clients and cases to attend to. Asking them to hang around courts with their hands in their pockets all day waiting on a shout of come in team McKevitt, your case is up amounts to a judicial roulette, easy to visualise emblazoned in some fairground type neon lights: Roll up, Roll up, play waiting for the gavel to fall. 

Given that this issue concerns a citizen who has an arguable case that he is subject to illegal detention it is imperative that the case be heard right away. Failing that, McKevitt should be freed on bail. Denying him the ability to be at home with his family is not driven by security concerns given that he will be out in two years anyway. 

And as always there is the malign hand of the security state determined that even if McKevitt wins his case he will still not be freed, that the wheels of justice when they eventually do motion will only to so to go through the motions.