Boston Tapes: Shameful Prosecutorial Malfeasance In Belfast

Shameful Prosecutorial Malfeasance In Belfast
Chris Bray
Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland has broken its own rules, and embarrassed itself in the process.

Ivor Bell was charged with IRA membership, and aiding and abetting in the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, over a year ago. He has returned to court several times since then, and in every instance, the Public Prosecution Service has asked for more time to think about the matter.

Two weeks ago, Bell returned to court– so that prosecutors could ask for two more weeks to think about the case.

This week, with that two week delay having passed, Bell returned to court again – so that prosecutors could yet again ask for another month to think about the case. Not that they promised a decision in another month, natch.

The news reports on this week’s hearing say this: “A prosecutor said a meeting with senior counsel was due to take place on April 13 to discuss a ‘very lengthy’ recommendation from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on whether to proceed with the legal action.”

More than a year after the PPS brought charges against Bell, they are preparing to have a discussion about “whether to proceed with the legal action.”

The PPS has posted its own “Code for Prosecutors”online.

This is what it says on pg. 9:

“Where there are substantial concerns as to the credibility of essential evidence, criminal proceedings may not be proper as the evidential test may not be capable of being met.”

In the case of the supposed evidence against Bell, a set of audio tapes from Boston College involving an anonymous interview subject, the PPS told a Belfast court that it would begin looking for a voice expert who could help them prove that the tapes contain interviews with Bell himself. To be specific, they told the court this important fact seven months after they brought the charges against Bell.

So they threw some shit at a wall, and are hoping – thirteen months later – that they can find a way to make it stick.

The decision to bring charges against Ivor Bell on unreliable evidence was unethical, irresponsible, and unprofessional. At some point, the PPS has to be forced to stop kicking that can down the road. They filed charges without knowing they could prove them. It’s time to face that shameful failure.

Jean McConville case dragging on

Jean McConville case dragging on
2 April 2015

A case against a veteran republican accused of involvement in one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious murders is dragging on, a court has been told.

Ivor Bell, 78, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, is alleged to have aided and abetted in the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville, who was abducted from her home in west Belfast in 1972. He is further accused of IRA membership.

Defence solicitor Michael Crawford told Laganside Magistrates’ Court the case was centred on historic allegations.

Mr Crawford said: “Really, it is dragging on and there needs to be some focus.”

Grey haired and moustachioed Bell, who was wearing a purple coat and purple jumper with an open-neck white shirt underneath, sat impassively in the dock as the case was briefly mentioned.

The hearing lasted less than two minutes.

A prosecutor said a meeting with senior counsel was due to take place on April 13 to discuss a “very lengthy” recommendation from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on whether to proceed with the legal action.

Adjourning the case, district judge George Conner said he expected the final decision by the middle of next month.

The judge said: “If it is not made, I would expect to know what the delay is.”

The pensioner was released on continuing bail and left the court accompanied by a man and woman.

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow, was dragged from her home in the Divis flats by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast – an allegation discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to police in the Irish Republic.

She became one of the “Disappeared” and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.

Nobody has ever been convicted of her murder.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was arrested and questioned as part of the police investigation into Mrs McConville’s death.

The Louth TD has consistently rejected allegations by former republican colleagues including Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price that he had a role in ordering her death.

The allegations contained part of an oral history archive collated by Boston College and the Police Service of Northern Ireland launched legal action on both sides of the Atlantic to gain access to the tapes.

Testimony from former paramilitaries had been given on the basis that it would not be made public until after their death.

The case has been adjourned until May 14.