30 July 1998 Edition

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COCAD critical of court decision

By Michael Pierse

The Coalition of Communities against Drugs (COCAD) has reacted angrily to a decision taken in the District Court last Friday, in which three of the twelve anti-drugs activists charged in connection with the death of Josie Dwyer in May 1996 were told they would be tried in the Special Criminal Court.

The court, which deprives defendants of a trial by jury, has been described by North Inner City SF Councillor Christy Burke as ``draconian'' and ``outdated''.

COCAD representative Hugh McGeown said that there has been no explanation from the state for the decision to use the court, although the defendants' counsel has made efforts to find out. McGeown also asserted that this action is a ``clear indication of a hidden agenda'' which has tried ``to break the anti-drugs movement and deliver areas back to drug lords''. There is simultaneously an attempt, he said, to link COCAD, which is the biggest anti-drugs network in the country ``with paramilitary involvement and in doing so criminalise it''. They said ``this reflects a lack of confidence by the state in its case against the accused''.

McGeown was defensive of the anti-drug patrols, which had come under fire following the murder, although they were a completely separate issue. ``Where the state negates its responsibility for the protection of its children, then parents are perfectly entitled to protect their families...communities never get credit for what they've done''. Anti-drugs activists have emphasised that these patrols were perfectly legal and intended as a peaceful means of opposing drug-dealing, they were not in any way related to the murder.

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