Saturday, August 22, 2015

Message from a Dogged Investigator

I sent an email message to Detective Inspector Neil McGuinness of the PSNI, asking him for comment on his recent letter to Ed Moloney (that he didn't send to Ed Moloney, because he doesn't know how to find him). I got this remarkable message in response:

Mr Bray,

The investigation into the abduction and murder of Jean McConville is on-going. Can you confirm that Mr Maloney has received my request that he contact me in the matter I referred to in the letter you have received? To date I have not received any reply from Mr Maloney.


Neil McGuinness
Detective Inspector

So there it is: In August of 2015, the PSNI's detectives are waiting for witnesses to get in touch with them about a 1972 murder. And they haven't quite figured out yet how to spell the names of the people they consider witnesses.

The swift and steady hand of justice, ladies and gentlemen.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Charge First, Then Begin to Investigate

Below is an absolutely astounding letter from a Police Service of Northern Ireland detective to the Irish journalist and former Belfast Project director Ed Moloney. The letter is cut off at the top. This is the way it was sent to me, scanned it into digital form this way by the person who has the letter -- not Ed Moloney, who the crack detectives of the PSNI can't find.

This letter is amazing in many, many ways, but start with the date: August 7, 2015.

In the summer of 2015, the PSNI is beginning to ask people to cooperate as witnesses in matters relating to the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. That's well over a year after prosecutors in Northern Ireland filed aiding and abetting charges over McConville's murder against Ivor Bell, who is allegedly a former senior figure in the Provisional IRA. And it's well over a year since the PSNI arrested Gerry Adams and questioned him regarding McConville's murder.

This is how law enforcement officials in Northern Ireland are pursuing justice in the murder of Jean McConville: They filed charges last year, and they're trying to find some witnesses this year. I'm embarrassed for them.

Here's the letter:

Friday, July 31, 2015

Kick the Can, Continued

A representative of the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland, speaking to the press earlier this month about the possible case against Gerry Adams over the murder of Jean McConville, with emphasis added: “It is anticipated that the processes involved in taking this decision will be concluded before the end of July.”

Most PSNI and PPS statements on the Jean McConville matter are eventually proven to be false.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Turd Passing

Endless. Shameless.

Ivor Bell, arrested and charged in March of 2014 for allegedly aiding and abetting in the 1972 murder of the Belfast widow Jean McConville, has bounced off the surface of the justice system ever since. After a long series of inconclusive court appearances in which prosecutors asked for more time to think about the charges, a Belfast judge finally gave the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland an ultimatum this year: Make a decision or give it up. So we had many versions of this news story in early June of this year, after the PPS told the court they had definitely for sure decided to proceed:

"Ivor Bell to be prosecuted over Jean McConville murder."

That decision, the Irish Times wrote, "has ended mounting uncertainty over the case."

It surely hasn't. After the June 4 "decision," Bell was ordered to return to court on July 16 so the judge and the lawyers on both sides could figure out a date to begin a preliminary inquiry in the case. Today is July 21. You wouldn't know it from the newspapers in Ireland or the UK, but Bell did return to court on July 16 -- where no date was set for a preliminary inquiry. Instead, the PPS asked for another delay in the case.

The prosecutor assigned to prosecute Bell, they explained, is on maternity leave. And the other prosecutor assigned to the case in her absence hasn't had time to read the case files, yet.

For about the fifty thousandth time, I'll say that you can really feel the urgency, here. The criminal justice system in Northern Ireland will not rest until Jean McConville's killers are brought to justi- okay, wait, another prosecutor just went to the bathroom. Try again in October, your honor? Or we could, I don't know, pencil something in for 2020? That year is looking pretty solid for us.

In theory, the case is back in court in two weeks. Now taking bets on how many times the PPS can say they aren't ready before a judge is willing to mercifully put their case out of its misery. The dog continues to eat our homework, your honor.

I asked the PPS press office for comment, and will update if they respond. But they may need some extra time to think about it, for sure.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The PSNI's Urgent Murder Investigation, Continued

Here's an an actual news headline from early July, 2013: "Boston College tapes: PSNI detectives get secret Dolours Price transcripts."

Two years ago, as part of their urgent investigation into the 1972 kidnapping and murder of the Belfast widow Jean McConville, police in Northern Ireland took possession of a set of taped interviews subpoenaed from the archives at Boston College.

Then, in March of last year, Belfast resident Ivor Bell was charged with aiding and abetting in McConville's disappearance. Those charges, not yet scheduled for trial or brought to court for a preliminary hearing, are now fifteen months old – staler than the wedding cake on Miss Havisham's banquet table.

One of the many problems with the possibility that Bell will be successfully prosecuted is a reality of the Boston College tapes that I reported on a long time ago: Boston College doesn't have an identity key, or many of the collection contracts, that would be needed to connect interviewees with their anonymously labeled interviews.

In theory, at least, one of the ways to successfully prosecute Bell would be to connect the tapes to the interviewees. One of the clearest ways to do that – again, in theory – would be to ask the interviewers to identify the interviewees. For tapes with former members of the Provisional IRA, the organization that took McConville from her home and killed her, the interviews were conducted by the former Provisional IRA prisoner and history PhD Anthony McIntyre. That would be the person you would want to question, if you were the police and you hoped to successfully prosecute former members of Irish republican paramilitary organizations.

So the police have now done just that. Anthony McIntyre lives in the Republic of Ireland, out of the direct reach of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, so a pair of Garda detectives appeared at his front door today and attempted to question him on behalf of their colleagues in the north. McIntyre's account is that he politely declined to offer them any answers, and they went away quickly and with equal politeness. And why not? It's not like anything much is at stake, at this point.

Two years after the PSNI took possession of the Boston College tapes, the police have made a desultory attempt to gesture at validating them. In 2015, they tried to ask some questions about the tapes they got in 2013. So they could solve the 1972 murder that they began to investigate in 2011. For the sake of kindness, let us assume that they just take plenty of naps.

We're having an annual development in the McConville murder, now. By 2032, give or take a decade, we could easily have a denouement of some kind.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Politics by Other Means

Here's a transcript of Sunday's 60 Minutes report on Gerry Adams and the murder of Jean McConville. The tell is at the start of the second paragraph, right below the picture: "Recently, old wounds split open when a history project by Boston College uncovered accusations of murder against the man who could be Ireland's next prime minster."

That's the point: The fear that Gerry Adams will be Ireland's next prime minister. It has been nearly a year since Adams was released from police custody, without charges, after being questioned over his role in McConville's death. Today he faces a stale investigation built on a foundation of hearsay from dead people, with a sprinkling of anonymous interviews on tape. Perhaps he'll still be stunt-charged for a while, ahead of the next elections in Ireland, before the charges are allowed to wither up and blow away in court but linger in public memory. In the end, Adams is as likely to go to prison over the murder of Jean McConville as I am.

And so we're left only with the actual point of the whole assault on the archives: 1.) A history project by Boston College 2.) ties a murder to the man who could Ireland's next prime minister.

Four years after the first subpoenas were served in Boston, we have no trial -- but lots of media coverage. As predicted, this is Irish politics, conducted by a police agency in the United Kingdom and the U.S. Department of Justice. This is not why societies have police.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Shameful Prosecutorial Malfeasance In Belfast

The Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland has broken its own rules, and embarrassed itself in the process.

Ivor Bell was charged with IRA membership, and aiding and abetting in the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, over a year ago. He has returned to court several times since then, and in every instance, the Public Prosecution Service has asked for more time to think about the matter.

Two weeks ago, Bell returned to court – so that prosecutors could ask for two more weeks to think about the case.

This week, with that two week delay having passed, Bell returned to court again – so that prosecutors could yet again ask for another month to think about the case. Not that they promised a decision in another month, natch.

The news reports on this week's hearing say this: "A prosecutor said a meeting with senior counsel was due to take place on April 13 to discuss a 'very lengthy' recommendation from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on whether to proceed with the legal action."

More than a year after the PPS brought charges against Bell, they are preparing to have a discussion about "whether to proceed with the legal action."

The PPS has posted its own "Code for Prosecutors" online. This is what it says on pg. 9: "Where there are substantial concerns as to the credibility of essential evidence, criminal proceedings may not be proper as the evidential test may not be capable of being met."

In the case of the supposed evidence against Bell, a set of audio tapes from Boston College involving an anonymous interview subject, the PPS told a Belfast court that it would begin looking for a voice expert who could help them prove that the tapes contain interviews with Bell himself. To be specific, they told the court this important fact seven months after they brought the charges against Bell.

So they threw some shit at a wall, and are hoping – thirteen months later – that they can find a way to make it stick.

The decision to bring charges against Ivor Bell on unreliable evidence was unethical, irresponsible, and unprofessional. At some point, the PPS has to be forced to stop kicking that can down the road. They filed charges without knowing they could prove them. It's time to face that shameful failure.