Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Robbed of a fair trial

Breidge Gadd has written an intelligent commentary on recent events in the north of Ireland:

We are told that everyone believes the Northern Bank kidnapping and robbery was the work of the IRA. No doubt many theories abound but certain knowledge is another thing altogether. And there are many people deeply concerned that one man or even one organisation's secret opinion is to be taken without question to influence the political future. We have seen due criminal process already eroded, with the International Monitoring Commission being given the power to pronounce on criminal behaviour, whether loyalist or republican, without any requirement for evidence to be produced never mind their pronouncements being subject to scrutiny or substantiation.

Now there is worse.

We can all speculate till the cows come home about who committed the most audacious robbery of this century – and the bigger it is the more salacious the speculation (my goodness, aren't we so utterly hypocritical with our righteous condemnation of petty crime but our fascination with the big heist?).

We are all human enough to put forward our two-penny worth of theories about "who done it".

But what the people I have talked to are clear about is that no-one – and that is no one person irrespective of their position, their expertise or even their inside knowledge has the right or authority to say with conviction who robbed the Northern Bank. (not to mention kidnap, assault violence against the person and a string of other offences).

Only a court of law has the right to pronounce on innocence or guilt.

It is shocking – deeply shocking – that guesses, opinions, informed views, even those of the Chief Constable, have come to be seen by politicians, prime ministers, journalists and some more, as a satisfactory substitute for proper processes where criminal behaviour must be proven in a court of law. Worse than that they are prepared to allow this unchallengable and unchallenged advice to enable them to make assumptions and take political actions which will impact on every single one of us.

This turn of events scares the hell out of me and it should strike fear into the heart of every person who is subject to the British justice system. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?


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