The Van der Lendens and what sort of person is your great-granny?

The recent arrest of lay magistrate Delia Van der Lenden and her retired Dutch naval officer husband was what you might describe as an own goal by the PSNI.  Mrs Van der Lenden said after their release that either the PSNI targeted them  for “malicious reasons” or they had lousy intelligence. I’d say most people would go along with that, and let’s be honest, the couple’s   impeccably middle-class appearance probably helped as well. It’s a sad fact but we’re more prone to believe in people with clean fingernails and nice houses than those with dirty fingernails and coarse voices.

But the part of this case that I found most interesting was the fact that reports of the arrest of the Van der Lendens invariably mentioned Mrs Van der Lenden’s son, Ciaran Cunningham, a republican political activist who was given six years in 2004 when he pleaded guilty to collecting information likely to be useful to dissident republicans.  Two questions.

1. Was Mrs Van der Lenden appointed a lay magistrate before or after her son’s conviction? I ask because I know  someone who applied to become a Prison Visitor, and the forms they had to fill in asked all sorts of questions about the applicant’s family, yea, verily unto the second and third generation preceding. The implication behind the questions was,  if you had any skeletons in the family, you weren’t going to do any Prison Visiting.  So my guess – kick me if I’m wrong –  is that Mrs Van der Lenden got the lay magistrate green light before her son Ciaran got arrested and sentenced.[NOTE: WELL, I GUESSED WRONG – NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME. RELIABLE SOURCES HAVE JUST  INFORMED ME THAT MRS VAN DER LENDEN’S APPOINTMENT PRECEDED HER SON’S ARREST AND CONVICTION. I STAND RED-FACED AND IN ERROR. PERMISSION TO KICK GRANTED.]

2. Why do relatives matter in judging people?  I can see how my record  – what I’ve said and done – would affect my suitability for certain posts. But why should the activities of any of my relatives affect it,  for good or ill?  Should I suffer because my son or sister or cousin gets up to something the authorities disapprove of?  I’ve no control over their actions. The very idea runs counter to natural justice.  Taken to  extremes, you could find yourself turned down for a job because your great-uncle was once up in court for shop-lifting. I know this way of judging happens unofficially among stupid people  (“Oh,  s/he’s one of the Murphys, I taught the older brother, they’re a bad lot”),  but that it should operate at official level is outrageous.

2 Responses to The Van der Lendens and what sort of person is your great-granny?

  1. Anonymous August 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    The response by politicians to the arrests mirrored the different experience of the past. A unionist spokesperson on the radio was in support of the PSNI arrests, while accusing the SF spokesperson of pick and mix support. The unionist person didn’t suffer the pervious security policy that nationalist did. I my family and our neighbours were regularly arrested as terrorists, every 4 months at least, when a new regiment took over where we lived. As I was and am no more a terrorist than Prince Philip is I used to think my god I’m being arrested without cause or evidence for suspicion the whole security system must be corrupt. I hope the PSNI are not adopting the RUC’s security system. They and we have a lot to loose. Perhaps thats why SF are so keen to keep the PSNI on the straight and narrow. Crime- Evidence- Arrest- Court and conviction.

  2. Anonymous August 28, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Speaking of people you may not be proud to call relatives.