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rights, freedoms and repression |
Tuesday September 05, 2006 19:24 by Niall Harnett
Owen Rice again remanded in custody - trial hearing adjourned till 26th Sept '06.
'Our justice system may be equipped to administer the law but they are not equipped to deliver justice'. This quote, from a man who spent three months in jail last summer for protecting his community in N.W. Mayo, makes an important distinction in terms of what to expect from the justice system in this country. My own experience of Galway District Court yesterday leads me to disagree and say this. They are not even equipped to administer the law, let alone justice.
Assaults by Garda Sgt No:RG33 Mick Clesham on Owen Rice's legal assistants and friends in the court lobby, denials to Owen Rice of private legal consultation, threats of contempt against friends and Indymedia writers taking notes in court, objections to and intimidation of a privately employed stenographer and the denial of Owen Rice's right to cross-examine prosecution witness Detective Sergeant Mick Coppinger are all considered 'normal' procedure at Galway District Court according to Judge Mary Fahy and Galway Court Service Officer Ray Burke.
Assaults in Galway courthouse by this person - Garda Sergeant No:RG33 Mick Clesham.
Owen Rice, after 3 weeks in custody on remand, was in Galway District Court yesterday 4th Sept '06 to answer and contest charges arising out of an EU summit protest in Galway in Jan 2004. Owen was in the court lobby, accompanied by three police officers, waiting to go into court.
On arriving at the court myself I saw Owen's 'McKenzie friend' & lay-legal assistant, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McKenzie_Friend), Kevin Tracey attempting to talk to Owen and the police were denying him this consultation. I saw Kevin Tracey being assaulted by one of the police officers who slammed his hand into Kevin's chest and pushed him violently away. As I approached to greet Owen, I was assaulted myself, no questions asked, with another violent hand into the chest shoving me back. Owen was taken away from the lobby and brought downstairs while Kevin Tracey and myself asked the offending police officer to identify himself which he then refused to do. On challenging him on his behaviour he replied: "I don't care what ye think, I'm being paid". We now know this bully to be Garda Sergeant No:RG33 Mick Clesham.
Court Service Officer Ray Burke arrived on the scene to discourage any protests against this thuggish behaviour of the Gardaí saying things like. 'There's no point lads, they're not going to listen to you'. 'I've been working here for years, this kind of thing happens every day, you're not going to change anything'. 'It's just the way it is'. The unacceptable becoming acceptable. Ray was good-natured towards us but, as I told him, even he is immune to it now!
In court Owen's case was called and put back until after lunch, but Owen, who is defending himself, was allowed to make an application (ask) for a private consultation with his McKenzie friend which was refused by Judge Mary Fahy, without any reference to the law but on her 'understanding' that Owen was not entitled to a private consultation with anyone other than a member of the legal profession.
After lunch, on the judge's return to court she announced that she had been made aware that there was a stenographer and other people chewing gum in class, no ... sorry my mistake, I meant to say ... taking notes in court!! "And would these people stand up please?" She then went on to make a ruling that no-one other than an "accredited journalist" or a "stenographer from a reputable company" was entitled to take notes in court. After much to-do and objections by the state prosecutor to the stenographer, and to her embarrassment at being faced with a barrage of childish questions as to her pedigree, the judge finally conceded to Owen's application to allow the stenographer record his case's proceedings. When questioned by Owen Rice and myself on the legality of her assertions of 'no entitlement for anyone else in the court to make notes' she refused to give any legal grounding to her decision saying only that she had made her ruling and "any repeats of these type of questions would be treated as contempt of court".
Later on, when the case finally started at about 5pm, only to be adjourned an hour later because of the time, Owen got a chance to cross-examine the evidence of Detective Sergeant Mick Coppinger who was involved in Owen's arrest. Owen had received Det. Coppinger's sworn statement previous to this court date, under the 'Gary Doyle' order of disclosure he had applied for, and proceeded to question the detective on his sworn evidence given in that statement. Judge Mary Fahy made several attempts to stop him from doing this, again without any legal grounding, but insisting “on her understanding” again that it was “normal” for witnesses only to be questioned on evidence given to the court on that day. When Owen disputed her assertions, again she could quote no law on this but just suggested that what she was saying was “normal” procedure.
Finally, impatient and unsure of herself legally, in my opinion, at 6pm she adjourned the case until 26th Sept. Owen made an application (asked) for bail, which was contested by the state prosecutor, and which she denied him on the basis that a colleague in a previous district court had ruled against bail. Owen was taken back into custody, hand-cuffed, remanded until the 26th Sept.
What happened in Galway District Court yesterday, in my opinion, is a joke.
The disorder and legal chaos we all experienced there, is testament to the ineptitude of all involved in that system from the police to the solicitors and to the judge, and a sad indictment of them all who's only expertise is to impose suffering on people of integrity like Owen Rice, integrity they fail to see, they are so blinded by the sickness of their ignorance and lack of conscience. There is no rule of law there, and certainly no justice, only abuse of power in the bullying of defendants and the public alike, knowing that if anyone dares voice any dissent, one is faced with 'a court ruling on the matter' and a threat of contempt, the consequence of which is prison, for even asking a question on legal grounds. Like kids at school being told to act in a certain way by bullying teachers who say it's right "cos i said so". Only in the district court the judges' power comes from the fact that they can send you to jail for contempt of a 'cos I said so', legal, illegal or plain just made up cos it suits them.
What an abuse? What a curse you people are?
"I don't care what ye think ... I'm being paid".