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.