Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Justice Is More Than A Word.

My husbands mother would often speak fondly of a lady (now deceased) named Mary-Anne Deery.. I'm told that Mary-Anne who lived in the Bogside area of Derry was known for her strength of character and great sense of humour. However for Anne she is best remembered for the words she spoke aloud during a religious service and what should have been silent reflection, those words were “God Bless our wee Manus”. Manus was the son she lost on May 19th 1972 when he was murdered in Derry's Bogside by a member of the British Army whilst eating chips with his friends. It was on this day that Manus, a boy with his whole life ahead of him, received his first pay packet (wage).

Following his death it was claimed that there was a gunman spotted in the vicinity at the time of the shooting. This was further claimed in statements given by the soldiers responsible and was accepted without challenge during the coroners inquest in 1973. Here it was ruled that Manus had died as a consequence of lacerations to his brain caused by fragments from a tracer bullet of the type fired from a NATO issue 7.62 rifle. In this case the jury returned an open verdict which happens when the occurrence of a death is suspicious, yet no specific cause has been attributed.

In terms of a criminal investigation it will come as no surprise to learn that the RUC failed to carry out a thorough investigation into the Manus's death. The extent of their investigation consisted of a file given to the DPP containing statements from Manus’ mother, “Margaret Anne Deery”, and from his cousin “James Deery”. Manus's Mother was called Mary Anne and he had no cousin called James. Witnesses who participated in the inquest the following year spoke of how they had not been questioned by the RUC. In addition to this the only crime scene photographs had been taken from an observation post on Derry's city walls.

After the above investigation the family were informed that:

"The evidence and information reported together with the recommendations of police was carefully considered by experienced lawyers in this Department. It was concluded that the evidence available was insufficient to afford a reasonable prospect of conviction of any identifiable individual, and accordingly, a direction for no prosecution was issued on 9 November 1972."

In 2001 nine families including the Deery family challenged the then Secretary of State Dr John Reid and the Director of Public Prosecutions over their failure to prosecute, hold inquests and independent inquiries into the deaths of their loved ones. This followed a ruling that the state had violated article 2 (The Right to Life) of the European Convention on Human Rights over their failure to hold independent inquests, inquiries and to prosecute.

Eleven years later, in June 2012, the North's Attorney General ordered a new inquest into Manus's death under the Coroners’ Act. Sadly, in the November of the same year Manus's case was suspended with 14 others by the senior coroner for Northern Ireland Mr John Leckey.

In July 2013 the Deery family were made aware of a document from 1972. This document advised the British government that Manus's killing was “unjustified in law.” It was said that the document written by legal advisers to the British government proves that the young boy was murdered. The document discovered in the National Archives at Kew, stated that the shooting of Manus Deery;

was in contravention of the Yellow Card and unjustified in law, irrespective of whether Deery was carrying a firearm.”

The yellow card was a standard that British soldiers were required to adhere in N.Ireland. Within these parameters lethal force should only have been used as a last resort and when there was a risk to life.

More recently, in January of this year the question on whether to permit a jury  in Manus's inquest was raised causing considerable controversy. Shortly after the coroner Mr John Leckey left on sick leave and is expected to retire in the near future. Despite calls from the Mr Leckey to find replacement the Department of Justice have failed to appoint a successor.

Just yesterday it was announced that the only survivor of the Kingsmill Massacre Alan Black has threatened legal action over the department of justices' failure to appoint a new coroner to hear a fresh inquest into the murders of the Kingsmill victims. In 1976 eleven textile workers were lined up against their mini bus and shot on their way home from work, ten of the men died. The finger of blame was pointed at the IRA, who never claimed responsibility.

Speaking yesterday Alan Black had this to say:

Over the years since we got involved, it has been one obstacle put in our way after the other and all coming from the Department of Justice,” …..“They knew for two years that John Leckey was going to go. David Ford wants to kick us into the long grass again, we are not going, We’ll do whatever’s necessary with the legal people and hopefully get a result then.”

It would seem that those fighting for justice spend more time overcoming hurdles with each hurdle higher than the last. How can their be a level playing field when the state keep moving the goal posts to protect their own forces, so far as to prevaricate on the murder of a fifteen year old boy.

So much for the promises of the Good Friday Agreement when we were promised an era in which “justice would be done and seen to be done” as well as measures compatible with a “normal and peaceful society”.

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