A hierarchy within the justice system? by Eamonn MacDermott

We often hear that there can  be no hierarchy of victims in this society of ours and that people who died during the war here are all the same. Well recent times would suggest not only is there a hierarchy of victims among the dead there is also a hierarchy within the justice system where one murder is not the same as another. So it matters very much who you are alleged to have killed.Let’s take the case of John Downey. Here is a man from Donegal who has faces charges in relation to the deaths of two members of the UDR in 1972.

When the charges were first mooted he opposed an attempt to extradite him as he was legally entitled to do. However, when his appeal against extradition failed what did he do? Did he try and flee the country and find refuge somewhere else? No he didn’t. Did he go on the run within Ireland forcing the authorities to mount searches for him? No he didn’t. Instead when he lost his appeal he handed himself in to the Gardai to be handed over to the Northern authorities.

Since then he was brought before a court in handcuffs, remanded in custody and has been refused bail on at least three occasions. This is despite offering a substantial cash surety and an address in the North. I mean where is he going to run to? Back across the border to the country that handed him over in the first place? Hardly likely. So he currently is incarcerated in Maghaberry Prison and some people would argue that that is only proper for someone facing the most serious charge possible namely murder.Now let’s compare this to the treatment of Soldier F one of the paratroopers involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings. Soldier F faces two murder charges and five attempted murder charges in relation to the shootings on January 30 1972. Now so far so similar to John Downey, the same number of murders in the same year. So when was Soldier F brought to court in handcuffs and remanded in custody? Oh I forgot he wasn’t.

So far there has been one hearing involving Soldier F and he did not even deign to make an appearance simply because he doesn’t have to facing as it is a summons not requiring him to appear until the committal stage of proceedings.He does not have to be granted bail as he is not in custody and there has been no suggestion that he should be placed in prison while awaiting his trial.

For the life of my I fail to see what the difference is between Soldier F and John Downey. They both face historic murder charges relating to events in 1972 so why the difference in treatment?

It could not possibly be that there is one law for people like John Downey who is charged with the deaths of security force personnel and another law for Soldier F who is charged with the deaths of civilians. 

If the legal system could find it possible for Soldier F to be charged on the basis of a summons for two murders and five attempted murders why could they not have done the same for John Downey.Surely there is not one law for republicans and another one for soldiers. If so then murder is not murder it all depends on who you kill.

Jude Collins <judejcollins@gmail.com>
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