Colin Duffy and that not-guilty verdict

Well, that was a shock result, wasn’t it? All the focus had been on Colin Duffy and not on his co-defendant, Brian Shivers.  Then yesterday, the judge (it was a Diplock, jury-less court) pronounced that Duffy was not guilty and Shivers was, so Duffy went free and Shivers got a life sentence. To complicate matters, Shivers is suffering from a terminal illness.

I don’t know the detail of this case but I was struck by a number of things. The juryless court is one.  They’re necessary, we’re told, to avoid intimidation.  The question is, of whom? Is the argument that if there was a jury, there’d be more people who might be intimidated? What if you were on a jury and you believed passionately in the innocence of those charged with paramilitary attacks – wouldn’t intimidation be counter-productive? And how would those who intimidated you know whether you were arguing for the innocence or guilt of the accused?

The other side of a juryless court is that it’s a judge-deciding court. So the judge becomes judge, jury and executioner, as it were. Is there not something inherently anti-civil rights about that? That one man (they appear to be always men) can determine guilt AND deliver sentence. That’s an awful lot of power to put into one man’s hands. Are our judges such super-beings that we can allow such distilled power to be passed to them? Most of them were previously lawyers, and it’s not unfair to say that most people think most lawyers are ruthless and cunning. They certainly don’t rate highly on our Top Ten moral list.

Then there’s Colin Duffy. This is the third murder charge he has, as they say on the TV reports (which of course are always neutral) “walked away from”. The judge seemed to take a similar view: he conceded there wasn’t evidence enough to convict Duffy but that there were traces of his DNA in the car – the latex glove tip, the buckle of a seat-belt. Duffy’s supporters say the authorities have it in for him and are determined to get him on some charge or other, and they point to a kind of DNA testing which has never been used here before. And of course his previous lawyer, Rosemary Nelson, was killed by loyalists.

The only person who knows whether Duffy is guilty is the man himself and, I suppose, a few intimates. He has always insisted on his innocence, claims he was abused by prison authorities and spent much of his time in prison on a dirty protest. There can be no doubt he cut a striking figure, with his long flowing locks and beard, as he was ushered to a car yesterday after release. It was like the eye of the storm – all around him the churn of supporters and the press, at the centre this tall erect figure looking a bit like an Indian holy man.

There are some people convinced that Duffy is guilty as hell, and the sooner he’s put away for keeps the better. There are others who see him as a heroic figure, persecuted by British authorities because he’s fearless in his republicanism.  Since none of us really knows, whichever of those positions we take may tell more about us than about Duffy. 

7 Responses to Colin Duffy and that not-guilty verdict

  1. Anonymous January 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    You badly need a spell checker. In fact, you cant even spell the guilty mans name.


  2. Christy Walsh January 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    That is the most balanced piece I have read on this case!

  3. Ryanm29 January 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    I came here expecting to read your usual republican biased blog, expecting you to be challenging the government to pay this man compensation, expecting to hear you ranting about how this stinks of old RUC, how his co-defendant is framed too.. but no.

    I get a balanced report. Is this as close as you come Jude to suggesting that he is as guilty as hell?

    I’m guessing that a jury has been dispensed with on these because its not about them ‘fighting for innocence’ its getting to the jurors before they make a decision and impressing on them that their man is innocent, and if he isnt innocent… well there would be consequences..

  4. Anonymous January 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Has everybody forgotten that the bomb squad never noticed any glove tip,it only appeared when the forensics arrived. Now that stinks of the old RUC.

  5. Anonymous January 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    Ryans last paragraph above in essence summarises why in a few cases non jury courts are required.In this case both defendants had the best of legal representation on legal aid so I dont think they were disadvantaged that way.Your hero Martin Mc Guinness said that those who committed tis crime were “traitors to the island of Ireland”.Presumably David Ford may brace himself for the inevitabe campaign to free Mr Chivers.

  6. Anonymous January 22, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    I discussed this with my wife, would you like to be called up for jury duty, and learn this was the trial you were called up for. If Colin Duffy is guilty of somthing its living in the past. (Sorry for anonymous I live in the lurgan area)

  7. Christy Walsh January 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    AnonymousJan 21, 2012 09:18 AM

    Ryans last paragraph above in essence summarises why in a few cases non jury courts are required.

    I must take you to task regarding your hype about why a jury must be removed in order to convict certain individuals. A Suspect is usually brought to trial because the police and prosecutors—respected representatives of the
    authority of the state—believe that that person is guilty or probably guilty; that alone is difficult to surmount and my own history is testimony to that fact. Diplock Courts then provision for an unchallengable adverse inference being drawn against any accused (before they even get to trial) that they pose a threat to a jury and thus it must be removed. Recovery from that moment onward becomes almost impossible.

    It matters nothing that neither Lord Diplock, and later Lord Gardiner, ever found any evidence of a single jury having been threatened –a fact that is usually kept out of your narrative of due process requirements.

    It could be said that Colin Duffy is NI Claus Von Bulow, an innocent man but dis-likeable.

    Some 22 years later I am still trying to clear my own name. David Ford has hindered my access to a legal representation and only since 5 January 2012 was I granted legal aid to assist in my current legal battles. With a Court hearing set for this 24th January he did his best to obstruct my access to justice.

    The only argument that David Ford has submitted in opposition to the above arguments, I quote, “If Walsh’s application succeeds it may gain a higher profile and raise questions over other convictions.” David Ford has since foolishly declined the Court’s invitation for him to submit another affidavit and the time line has now expired.

    The Court has confirmed with my lawyers that it will hear in FULL, on 24th January, against Ford on the following arguable issues,

    1) Administrative Practice of direct State sanction or tolerance to PPS criminal conduct.
    2) Usurpation of the role of the judiciary
    3) violation of my Article 6 ECHR rights
    4) other subsidiary issues

    Christy Walsh