14 May 2009 Edition
Adams calls for fundamental review of Prosecution Service
In his remarks the Sinn Féin leader attacked the role of the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and called for a fundamental review and change in the way that prosecution cases are conducted. Adams’s comments were in part a response to the deal done in the Harry Holland murder trial, which saw the charge of murder dropped against two of those involved. But his call for radical change within the public prosecution system also reflects the widespread nationalist concern, particularly during the years of conflict, about the role of the DPP, and now the PPS, in protecting the British state and its security and policing agencies from the legal consequences of their actions in the murder of hundreds of citizens.
“This year, this series of ‘Town Hall meetings’ fits into our commitment to engage with people in Ireland and internationally about the future of Ireland; it is about a national conversation about the future direction of Ireland and about how we achieve Irish reunification.
“The reality is that, 40 years after the Battle of the Bogside and the pogroms in Belfast, and the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement to achieve fundamental change, the Orange state is no more. Of course, the legacy of that period still exists in discrimination, in the inequalities and divisions which persist, and in the scourge of sectarianism. Partition remains the great immoral interference with Irish national rights. And there remain serious matters to be tackled in aspects of the justice system, not least of which is the role of the PPS.
“The unionist and British establishment always understood the key importance of controlling the law and justice and policing. The unionist state included a legal and judicial system that reflected its tradition and interests. All members of the judiciary were also in the Orange Order. The Special Powers Act was introduced to oppress the nationalist community. The RUC and the B-Specials were the armed enforcers of this.”
Gerry Adams said that the British Government also understand the importance of shaping the law and its agencies to suit its political goals. The Sinn Féin leader quoted Britain’s most senior military and counter-insurgency strategist, Brigadier Frank Kitson, who wrote;
“The law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal, and in this case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public. For this to happen efficiently, the activities of the legal services have to be tied into the war effort in as discreet a way as possible.”
Gerry Adams said that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) played their part in this.
“It was established in 1972 as a so-called ‘independent’ prosecuting authority. It was never that.
“The DPP ensured that many of the abuses of the British state never even made it to court – this despite the huge amount of evidence available concerning the existence of collusion, for example in the Pat Finucane Case, or uncovered by the Police Ombudsman’s office in its investigation into the murder of Raymond McCord Jnr and the activities of Mark Haddock; or the Oireachtas Committee report; the Barron Inquiry in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings; the Glenanne report into collusion in south Armagh and the Mid-Ulster ‘murder triangle’ and the reports by Stalker and Stevens and much more.
“The law did not require the DPP to give reasons for their failure to prosecute in any of these cases.
“The Good Friday Agreement envisaged a wide-ranging review of the criminal justice system which led to the Criminal Justice Review published in March 2000. The review made many recommendations, including the establishment of a new office, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).
“The report of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate in August 2007 on the PPS identified 40 weaknesses requiring action. So, there is a big job of work to be done in respect of the PPS. There needs to be a root and branch reform of the PPS.
“The transfer of policing and justice powers represents a unique opportunity to begin this process and to construct a public prosecution service that is representative of and accountable to the community and free from partisan political control. Sinn Féin is committed to the achieving these ends.”