Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Blackstone's Ratio

On Friday November 14th I attended an event in the Tower Hotel in Derry. The event was held to highlight the plight of the Craigavon Two who it would seem are victims of a gross Miscarriage of Justice.

Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton have protested their innocence since their arrest. They are currently serving lengthy prison sentences for the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll who was callously gunned down in 2009. Their convictions have been secured on the on the most questionable evidence, yet despite this the silence around their issue remains astounding with particular reference to our seemingly disinterested politicians.

Imagine your child was serving a life sentence on this evidence:

1)The main witness for the prosecution 'Witness M' has been described as a Walter Mitty by his own family.

2)The witness came forward eleven months after the murder whilst heavily intoxicated. Furthermore the witness asked if he would be paid for providing evidence.

3)His eye witness account has been deemed a medical impossibility due to his visual impairment.

4)The witness claimed he had been walking his dog around the time Stephen Carroll was murdered. It later transpired that the witness did not own a dog.

5)His partner from the time refused to corroborate his version of events.

6)This witness has been found to be inconsistent with his evidence from the outset.

7)Security surveillance equipment had been tampered with by security services leading the disappearance of crucial data.

8)The partial finger print found on the murder weapon does not belong to either of the accused nor was their alleged role established by the prosecution.

As I listened to the campaigners at the above event I couldn't help but sympathise with the families of both men on the understanding that this could as easily be a member of my family, in the wrong place at the wrong time. The evidence cited above not only gives rise to reasonable doubt but is an absolute insult to the idea of natural justice and human intelligence.

With the above factors in mind it is clear we continue to live in a society that favours expedience over natural justice as was apparent in the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and other less high profile cases.

The harsh reality is many of our people appear apathetic in this instance maybe even fearful of being branded anti- peace process or worse if they decide to speak out. But then this is to be expected with delusional and disinterested political and civic leaders who appear happy to let innocent people rot in jail rather than showing leadership.

Brendan Conville and John Paul Wooton continue to languish in prison on circumstantial evidence, tampered evidence and on the word of a visually impaired Walter Mitty character who is prone to heavy drinking and who claimed to be walking a dog which was later deemed imaginary . The whole thing is absurd, an affront to the notion of justice and would be no better than a comedic farce if it didn't involve the ruination of lives and a lack of investigation into the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll.

In 2008 Professor Graham Zellick, the  chairman of the Criminal Cases Review Commission in England, said the Court of Appeal should rule for retrials in cases where doubt has arisen over the safety of a conviction.

In his interview with the Independent in September 2008 the professor spoke of how “ The Court of Appeal ought to be more active in quashing convictions even though there has not been any irregularity in the trial process."

Professor Zellick also added that "The Court of Appeal is even more reluctant in 2008 than in the 1990s to quash convictions because they think they are unsafe.” 

And it would appear that they are now even more reluctant!

In his interview Professor Zellick made reference to the belief of English scholar William Blackstone who stated that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer". Blackstone was an authoritative speaker on common law. The basis for the concept of “reasonable doubt” is reflected in this quote, known as “Blackstone’s ratio” which is still used today.

Sadly the case of the Craigavon could be considered something out of a policy, war criminal and genocidal maniac Pol Pot would have embraced. Pot believed it was "Better to arrest ten innocent people by mistake than free a single guilty party. "

So much for an era in which 'justice will be done and seen to be done.'

It would seem our justice system is a real as the dog in the case.

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