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The Do’s and Don’ts of Prosecuting the Gardaí.

category mayo | environment | news report author Tuesday June 19, 2007 23:06author by NIall Harnett - Shell to Sea.author email clare at shelltosea dot comauthor address Doonagore, Liscannor, Co Clare.author phone 086 8444966 Report this post to the editors

"Experience is simply the name we give to our mistakes." - Oscar Wilde.

On Thur 3rd May 2007 at Westport District Court, I successfully applied for summonses and initiated prosecutions against 3 members of An Garda Síochána, Belmullet, Co Mayo, who were then summonsed to appear to answer charges of assault, criminal damage and theft at Belmullet District Court on 13th June.

On Wed 13th June 2007 at Belmullet District Court, I failed to bring the case to a full hearing, because of a number of avoidable mistakes that I made, one of which proved to my undoing, whereby the judge put a stop to me proceeding any further with these summonses.

This article is an account of my days in court, including the procedures I went through to initiate the prosecutions and the mistakes I made in failing, at this stage, to bring the proceedings to the proper conclusion of a trial. I hope others can learn from my experience, avoid the pitfalls, and be encouraged to bring their own prosecutions against criminal Gardaí, in order to stop their violence and the cowardly abuse of their power.
Click to enlarge for a view of relevant forms.
Click to enlarge for a view of relevant forms.


On Friday November 10th 2006 I was attacked by three Gardaí at a Shell to Sea protest in Erris, Co Mayo. This protest was part of an International Day of Action against Shell on ‘Ken Saro-Wiwa Day’, the 11th anniversary of his death by hanging, executed by Shell along with eight other leaders of MOSOP - the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People in Nigeria. Shell to Sea protests were happening that morning at the proposed Shell Corrib Gas refinery site at Bellanaboy and at two quarry sites near Bangor, Lennon’s and Barrett’s quarries, who are contracted by Shell to supply stone and concrete to the Bellanaboy site.

I was filming a protest where a group of about 20-30 people were staging a sit down protest on a bridge on one of the roads out of Lennon‘s Quarry. Three senior Gardaí attacked me, threw me to the ground, kicked me across the road, tore my camera from my grip, smashed it on the ground, stole and hid it, then threw me over a barbed wire fence into a field. The others suffered a similar fate to me and one man was hospitalised for a beating he got at the hands of Sergeant Conor O'Reilly and other Gardaí.

Allegations of Offences.

I say that Garda Superintendent Joe Gannon, Inspector Patrick Robinson and Sergeant Dermot Butler MY28 did assault me, criminally damage my Fuji Finepix digital camera and steal that camera, intentionally and without lawful excuse, contrary to Section 2 of The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, contrary to Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001 and contrary to Section 2 of the Criminal Damage Act 1991 (as amended by Section 21 of the Non Fatal Offences against the person Act 1997).

Getting the case into court.

NB: It is the right of the public to have free access to the courts, as a lay litigant or otherwise, to initiate and conduct prosecutions as a ‘common informer’ and seek justice with regard to offences committed against you or others, and where ‘justice shall be administered in public’. - Article 34.1 Irish Constitution.

On Thursday May 3rd 2007, after having written and briefly outlined my case to the district court clerk in order to get my name on the court ‘list’ at Westport District Court, I made an application for the ‘Issue of Summonses Alleging these Offences‘, based on oral testimony and written ‘Information’ that I submitted as evidence to the court, all in accordance with ‘Order 15 of the District Court Rules (Criminal Proceedings)’ which are available here: http://www.courts.ie/rules.nsf/DistrictRules . Because the signature of a judge is required for the summons of a member of An Garda Síochána, the appropriate ‘Summons Form 15.1 Schedule B’ and ‘Information Form 15.3 Schedule B’ Forms 15.1 are both available here in the Schedule B.pdf at the bottom of this page here: http://www.courts.ie/rules.nsf/542e6646d991f51a80256db7...db59/ . Both forms were pre-prepared by me and when my application was accepted by Judge Mary Devins, she signed her name to the summonses and issued them to me.

I subsequently served the summonses by hand and in person on two of the Gardaí, and by pre-paid registered post on the other, in accordance with ‘Order 10 of the District Court Rules (Preliminary & General)’ which are available here: http://www.courts.ie/rules.nsf/DistrictRules .

[Time for Service]
Order 10.20. Save where otherwise provided by statute or by Rules of Court, a document which is required to be served shall be served at least seven days or, in the case of service by registered prepaid post, at least twenty-one days, before the date fixed for the hearing.

What I subsequently failed to do was to lodge the summonses back with the district court four days before the next date in court. This proved problematic for me later on when my own mistake put me in the position of having to appeal to the discretion of the court to allow for the ‘late entry’ of these summonses.

[Time for Lodgement]
Order 10.21. A document intended for entry for hearing shall, together with a statutory declaration as to service thereof, be lodged with the Clerk at least four days before the date fixed for the hearing.

[Late entries]
Order 10.22. No document shall be received or entered by the Clerk after the time specified by these Rules without the order of the Judge, and any late entry shall be made in accordance with such direction as the Judge may give.

I had not fully read the ‘Rules of the District Court’ that were relevant to the issuing and lodgement of summonses. This was an avoidable mistake which put me in unnecessary difficulty. If I’d studied and stuck to the rules I’d have been on firmer ground and confident with it. My advice is to protect yourself by sticking to the rules of the game, which are easily accessible online nowadays.

Next date in court.

Although I had had the summonses issued in Westport District Court in early May, the judge directed that the case was to be heard in the court area of where the offences occurred and the accused reside, namely Belmullet District Court on Wednesday 13th June.

Because I became aware of my ‘late summons entry’ mistake on the previous evening I had doubts as to whether or not my name was even on the list for Wednesday. I spoke to the court clerk before court and she confirmed that I was not on the court ‘list’. I informed her of my mistake, gave her the late summonses and she said she would bring them to the attention of the judge. After the morning’s list of cases were dealt with, the clerk quietly presented my summonses to the judge and I stood up to apologise for the mistake I had made and to seek ‘the tolerance of the court and latitude normally accorded to lay litigants’ such as myself. I asked the judge to accept the late entry of the summonses, given the discretion of the court and the fact that the accused had appeared in court. I gave oral evidence under oath that I had served summonses on two of the Gardaí personally and submitted a statutory declaration of service by registered post on the other Garda, accompanied by proof of posting in accordance with the ‘Service of Documents’ Rules, Orders 10.16 & 10.17A. Forms available here if you click on the ScehduleB.pdf at the bottom of this page here: http://www.courts.ie/rules.nsf/542e6646d991f51a80256db7...db59/ .

At this point, Mr Liam Guidera of Frank Ward & Co Solicitors, Dublin, introduced himself as solicitor for the Gardaí. Mr Guidera began to make representations to the court as to why the judge should not allow the late summonses to be entered into the court record.

Mr Guidera brought my Indymedia articles to the attention of the judge, and represented my accusations on the newswire against Gardaí and others as ‘inflammatory, defamatory and contemptible’. This was an effort to give ‘an insight into my motivation as prosecutor’ as he put it, and to prejudice the judge against me, in my opinion. Although this did present me with the opportunity to defend my Indymedia articles and reject his suggestions, I should have just objected to this line of argument as these are matters that were not before the court and this was not being offered as sworn evidence either. It was just a dishonest effort to smear me, which the judge regrettably entertained by asking questions about my legal and journalistic ‘qualifications’ which were not relevant to the court and which I will know better the next time not to respond to.

Mr Guidera also brought up a letter which I had written to the Gardaí on 23rd May offering to drop the charges if they returned my stolen camera to me. This letter was the second mistake I made which proved to be my undoing by compounding my first mistake, in that the judge regarded this letter as a “definite interference in the prosecution and a taint of the process“. Because of this letter, she refused, in her discretion, to entertain the late entering of the summonses into the record of the court, with the result that my case was no longer ‘before the court’, and that was the end of the matter.

Judge Mary Devins’ ruling.

"In my view that letter is most definitely an interference in the prosecution, a taint of the process, using the court as a tool, and perhaps a weapon, that the prosecutor Mr Harnett in this case can take up and drop as he sees fit. If a Guard had issued proceedings in a criminal case and in the course of evidence I heard that that Guard had gone to the accused and had said that 'if you do such and such a thing, I will not enter this summons, or if you apologise I will not continue this prosecution', and that person refused to reply and the Guard then entered the summons, and I was given that evidence in court then I would most definitely consider that the prosecution was thereby fundamentally tainted and flawed. I would consider it an abuse of the process, an abuse of the administration of justice and an abuse of the district court. I would like to remind you Mr Harnett that the district court is not a circus manned by puppets. It’s a statutory court manned by lawyers, it’s not a theatre and it’s not a political forum”. Because of that letter I cannot entertain the summonses, and so they are not before the court, and I make no further comment." - Judge Mary Devins.

With the benefit of hindsight I can see why the judge would make such a ruling with regard to the letter and I accept that.

However, I cannot agree with the judge’s suggestion that this is my view of the district court, and I disagree with the notion that the sanctity or integrity of any court is the sole preserve of members of the legal profession when members of the public and … ‘all are held equal before the law ‘- Article 40.1 Irish Constitution.

I also think it’s important for me to reject any questions, notions or doubts about the nature of my motivation for prosecuting Gardaí, as suggested by the defence and entertained by the judge. My motivation is true and I encourage others to do likewise. Our fundamental rights to freedom of movement, assembly and protest, personal privacy and bodily integrity are being ‘disabused’ by violent Gardaí who are out of control. Our motivation is to stop their criminal behaviour, otherwise we give them a license to continue. And who else is gonna prosecute them?

Summary & Indictable Offences.

Be aware that there are two types of criminal offence in law - Summary Offences and Indictable Offences. A ‘summary offence’ describes one that can be tried in the district court before a judge alone. An ‘indictable offence’ describes one that can be heard in the circuit court before a judge and jury. Indictable offences are more serious and carry higher penalties than summary offences. Summary offences can be prosecuted to their full conclusion by a ‘lay litigant’ and ‘common informer’ in the district court. The distinction is also important in terms of the jurisdiction of the lay litigant to prosecute. The prosecution of indictable offences can be initiated in the district court by the lay litigant, but if the accused ‘elects’ to be heard before a jury in the circuit court, then the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) will take over your case.


Bottom LIne: You must be able to prove your case.

This is the most crucial factor in bringing any prosecution to the full conclusion of a conviction. Establish any witnesses to any criminal incident as soon as possible and be sure that they will give evidence in court and testify on your behalf. Secure any video or photographic evidence, including any Garda footage, which you are entitled to. If you're happy with your evidence and/or witnesses ... prosecute.

Representing yourself in court.

With regard to the pros and cons of representing yourself in court, I favour doing it ourselves. We will make mistakes but we can learn, the hard way if necessary, to master the subtleties of legal argument and the processes of law. And there is help available if you've never done it before. We can empower ourselves and others to develop the talents of the lay-litigant to take the veils off the ‘mysterious and elite inner sanctums’ of the law and bring justice right into the public realm, where it belongs.

Related Link: http://www.courts.ie/rules.nsf/
author by frankpublication date Fri Jul 06, 2007 09:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Niall it seems your case may have been justified.
- surprised this report isnt getting more publicity.
Is the S2S website asleep?

Related Link: http://www.gcmonitor.org/article.php?id=598
author by W. Finnerty.publication date Fri Jul 06, 2007 00:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Niall (Thu Jul 05, 2007 22:13 above),

I'd very much like, and very badly need in fact, to prosecute former Minister for Justice McDowell?

Is there any way you know of whereby I could start a prosecution against Mr McDowell myself - keeping in mind that Galway law-firm "Hogan & Co" are completely ignoring the letter I sent to them through the registered post on April 3rd 2007 - which, together with the associated Post Office receipt, can be viewed at http://www.europeancourtofhumanrightswilliamfinnerty.co...r.htm .

My situation is complicated by the fact that I'm living in forced-exile in Northern Ireland (in order to avoid being corruptly criminalised and possibly imprisoned in the Republic), and there is a risk, thanks to an extant warrant for my arrest, that if I return to the Republic of Ireland, there may be a THIRD attempt to force me to appear before the courts - in a manner whereby the Guards (Police) completely ignore core parts of Article 6 of the "European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003" at http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2003/en/act/pub/0020/pri....html .

Any help you might be able to provide me with, which I could consider, would be much appreciated.

Related Link: http://www.europeancourtofhumanrightswilliamfinnerty.com
author by NIallpublication date Thu Jul 05, 2007 22:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anon's point 2.

... a highly effective and legally unassailable alternative 'disciplinary procedure ...'

I like that word 'unassailable' and it's context within the law. To put yourself in a position of surety, to protect yourself with certainty, to put on the armour of the law, to prove your argument, and to win ... would be my interpretation of 'unassailable'. A purpose of law is to settle the argument one way or the other, definitively. When your case is strong, use the law to defend, protect and vindicate yourself.

Anon's point 4.

'... to fully expect no favours, leeway or any sort of 'justice' at all, except that which they secure for themselves.'

That's very good advice anon thank you, and should be taken as encouragement to be clear, focused and persistently proactive, with practice, about what you want from the court and it's processes of law.

And thanks to all for the kind comments of good advice and encouragement. I'm sure we can get on top of this. Workshops are deffo a way forward too, I and a few others are up for that for sure.

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/82108
author by Studentpublication date Sat Jun 30, 2007 21:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The department of education is now blocking the Shell to Sea solidarity camp's website in all schools; both primary and secondary.
Is this not an example of political censorship? How can the youth join the struggle if they don't know there is one?

author by hollyoak - Shelltoseapublication date Fri Jun 29, 2007 17:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done Niall !

What's very important is that future prosecutions of violent gardai will have a better chance of success. We know that Bertie gave them instructions to do whatever they could to intimidate the protestors and this has meant that the more aggressive members of the force are sent to Bellanaboy with a 'carte blanche' to bully, resulting in many incidents of excessive use of force. They must be subjected to prosecution to make them think twice in future - and, if nothing else, it will pull them out of the line for a day or two and we can name and shame the bastards.

author by Steve Sanderspublication date Mon Jun 25, 2007 16:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done Niall! I know you lost this battle but the war goes on!

Best of luck in your future tussles with the guardians of our peace.

Hats off to you Man. You're game like Ned Kelly!

author by anonpublication date Sun Jun 24, 2007 21:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

... but will prove itself a valuable effort {and publication is the first step}, insofar as the right lessons and consequences are drawn - here are mine:

1. In the fightback against State/Pig thuggery, no weapon should be discarded a priori, even if it is a legal one provided by the class enemy / corrupt State.

2. Whilst the aim of prosecution must always be to prove the charge beyond reasonable doubt and secure conviction, then disposal of that particular corrupt pig from the Gardai, even if this goal is not {always} attained, the process can {if used correctly} be a highly effective and legally unassailable alternative 'disciplinary procedure' to MI5 McDowell's farcical concoction (i.e. 'De Garda's Buds, Man').

3. This tool empowers the intended 'victim' and {at low-cost} provides them the satisfaction of publically exposing the porcine perpetrators in the forum most embarrassing to them 'professionally' (sic) - and the psychological advantages of learning to stand up and fight, bring the battle to the enemy, and enjoy the role-reversal along the way, should not be shunned by intelligent Anarchists or anyone else.

4. All this can be done without fostering any illusions in the stinking corrupt Irish legal system, in fact, from the outset it should be used to educate those following the procedure to fully expect no favours, leeway or any sort of 'justice' at all, except that which they secure for themselves. Anything beyond that which may be provided {probably accidentally} by the Judge can be considered an added bonus.

5. In bringing such actions, professional legal advice should neither be spurned outright nor relied upon absolutely. Getting it in writing helps research and double-checking of assertions. Self-representation is not for everyone, but going along to see such a show will always be fun, and may help people decide.

6. If this practice were sufficiently developed, it would soon have a severe damping effect on the piggies overbloated sense of impunity for gratuitous assault, theft, etc., as they quickly learned of the potential for exposure, shame and dismissal from formal access rights to the sweet swill trough.

7. Use it or lose it -- the right of 'common informer' to prosecute crimes on own or others behalf is a legal right which Injustice Ministers and their ilk would dearly love to ditch as antiquated, just like jury trials. It is better to defend them now, as if they are ever lost, you can bet they will be replaced with something much worse, designed to further empower the blooming police state being brought down.

8. Workshops are the way to go. Also, keeping cards close to chest and having it all come out in court.

9. Practice makes perfect -- Experience, Education + Preparation will tell in future Battles, which will be won!!

10. Good work, Mr. Harnett. I will be in touch soon.

author by We the People.publication date Sun Jun 24, 2007 14:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would suggest , NOT to publish any material before a Court appearance as this was used against Niall's argument in Court. Keep our powder dry and tell the enemy nothing.

'Say nothing and keep saying it' , is crucial to any attack.

( no wonder the right to silence has to be abolished).

I do think that workshops are the way to go for us all. Any Person who uses the system in an attempt to tilt it in favour of justice ,is to be applauded. The most effective Anarcist ,is a Court Anarcist...Believe me.

What the system expects, is that opposers of oppression , engage in Street battles and accept free handouts every week. That is what the system wants. Citizens who willingly allow themselves to be disempowered. A Citizen is a 'fiction' of 'the Person'.

There IS no threat to the system from these People. There never was and there never will be. Because the Person has willingly diluted themselves as a 'Ward' of the State. The State 'owns' you.

A Monkey wrench in the system is when YOU ( the Person) take a case into YOUR Court.

THEN , you Fxxx up the system.
The Courts are the People's Courts NOT the wigged mafia.

You might remember the phrase ........'and the word was made flesh' , from somewhere.

What it means is that the Person who takes the case into Court remains first party with their power of attorney and right to free speech in the most corruptable showcase in Town.
That is why we must organise Workshops on the method of entry and exposure of evidence in the Courts.

We carry our right of attorney and right of audience around with us, every Day , everywhere. The problem ,is that we don't even know it. We are never taught that in school. They don't want us to know.

You hand over your right of attorney and right of audience when you engage a member of the wigged mafia ,who in turn ,maintains the status quo.

Don't let them maintain the Status Quo.

Arise Anarcists arise.

author by jaypublication date Sun Jun 24, 2007 13:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors


would you like me to start commenting on your education or parents?

its the same old biased opinion on this site and when someone goes anyway against the grain, the article is either removed by the editor or an abusive comment or comments with no regard to the topic are added. can someone tell me what this site is? is it not a forum for non mainstream media that is important to some? or a biased abusive site with the one agenda that hates all authority.

if a garda was to do what niall did in a criminal case he would be disciplined and charged under the criminal justice act 2006.

I'm not too arsed writing my opinion here anymore doesn't seem like there are too many level headed unbiased article or comment posts here to enter into intelligent discussions.

author by Allsfairpublication date Sat Jun 23, 2007 22:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Judge considered the letter to be a threat or inducement and in her closing speech stated that the act of approaching an accused person and essentially bribing them is not within law.

The letter you sent speaks volumes about your purpose in looking for the summons. Not justice but revenge.

author by Frankiepublication date Sat Jun 23, 2007 15:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think the Gardai can be good and bad. Sure there are a number of dodgy members within the force who abuse their powers, mainly detectives, but theres also some good hard working members in it too who can be accountable. However, I disagree with the notion that the Gardai need more powers until I see the Ombudsman start taking action against some of these dodgy members first.

author by Jimbobpublication date Sat Jun 23, 2007 08:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I lament the poor education you received from your parents and teachers. Niall, generously, (but unwisely) made an offer to _ask the court_ to drop a justified charge of assault and criminal damage, if property is returned to him. If you see that as a threatening letter, it says a lot for your sense of logic, and justice.

Corruption, would include stuff like, breaking someones camera, assaulting them, damaging and taking their property without lawful reason, and using the uniform of the Garda Siochana to hide from accountability for those acts.

Is that a bit clearer for you?

author by jaypublication date Sat Jun 23, 2007 02:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

looks like you were the corrupt one, writing threatening letters to Gardai, you should have been the one charged!

author by Mick Butlerpublication date Fri Jun 22, 2007 16:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done Niall, well done big time for having the bottle and the tenacity for taking on these guys on their own ground, well I suppose it is our ground, our courts, our public buildings, our police force, all paid for by our public monies. A learning curve in this area is axiomatic, however I would suggest that a number of us who are interested in this (vital, in my opinion) arena, should pool our experience, knowledge and mistakes made along the way, perhaps through a workshop forum. The sooner the better it would seem judging by the way things are going.

PS : Murdoch's Dictionary of Irish Law is a very useful source of collated data, with quite extensive cross referencing re case law, statutory legislation, websites etc.

Well done again Niall.

author by Wellsaidpublication date Fri Jun 22, 2007 16:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Congrats on what you have achieved. Of course you may be disappointed that the case didn't get to run it's course, but the roads a long one, and your experience will bear fruition some day!! There's a lot of people who wish you well, and view you as one of the true guardians of the peace, not the boys in blue!!!

author by Pat Cannon - shell to sea discussionpublication date Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The executed 1916 leader Patrick Pearse who was a barester by profession once stated that the legal profession was the most ignobal of all professions and to show his contempt he never sat on another case again instead oppting to teach instead.

author by JimBobpublication date Fri Jun 22, 2007 01:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's a lot better than depending on the Ombudsman, which is nothing more than a circus.
It is true that the courts will favour the cops, and that the judges will try to give bad decisions to screw the case, all to try neutralise activists by tying them up in judicial reviews etc.

So, make sure you know the rules of the court, have your evidence, your witnesses, and don't take any crap. Be ready to object to
Judges like to slap defendants down and complain that they're trying to make political statements in court, and yet in many cases, when a defendent activist is arrested for some bull$hit reason (e.g. dangerous driving) the judge will make reference to his political beliefs. (see Owen Rice cases)

Be calm, but firm, quote lots of stuff about court procedure. Have someone to advise you, and have someone taking notes, and don't be shy about it. Tell the judge from the outset, don't ask for permission.
Don't get rattled by their tricks. EXPECT dirty tricks, and think on your feet.

Before you go into that court room, prepare yourself. Know the procedures, organise your paperwork, and then prepare yourself psychologically. Court rooms are designed to intimidate, and the Jude and cops are at home there, so let their arrogance wash over you, remind yourself that a seat is just a seat, even if it's behind the biggest highest desk in the room, and the guy in a uniform and his solicitor in sharp suit, still puts his pants on one leg at a time... and they're not expecting you to gain much ground. Surprise the f*ckers...

Niall has done a good job for a first attempt, and hopefully others will follow.

author by cablepublication date Thu Jun 21, 2007 15:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fair play to all defending their human rights & the environment - stand up to 'em, you've nothing to lose - but get some good advice & do it efficiently!
Best wishes to all who have the courage to take a stand. Get yr ass to Mayo folks, & c 4 y'selves.

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Thu Jun 21, 2007 01:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nice article Niall. Very decent of you to publish this and risk the trolls. What you've printed is important.

I'm an anarchist (as you undoubtedly know), philosophically rather than politically and I don't belong to any anarchist group. I applaud this type of action. This is taking the fight to the fuckers, right into their sitting rooms, and daring to hit back.

Presently the methodology is crude, there's a learning curve. But it's getting better and amongst the near hits there are some success stories. I do not see choosing to fight those who make a mockery of democracy and natural law, within their own framework and arena, as being a recognition of the mockery they perpetrate or as being an act that legitimises it. It is a tool and nothing more. More to the point it is a tool that the oppressors have used for centuries. Their use of this tool has varied little and but a little observation reveals most of their tricks. They are neither creative nor innovative.

You made a few mistakes Niall. Choosing to go after these guys was not one of the mistakes. They must still cough up for their solicitor (which will undoubtedly cost more than the camera that was lost - at least this act did not profit them) and they still had to attend Court on your order, just like a good servant ought to. You flexed your muscle and you observed it to work. The couple of mistakes you did make were honest and in my opinion were done out of a sense of fairness and out of the fact that you are learning, rather than weapon weilding as alleged by the Judge.

I disagree with the Judge's view with regard to the court being full of puppets and being a theatre. Indeed this Judge used the Court as a political forum with regard to her comments about and to Niall. 'Manned by lawyers' she says, and probably said it with pride too. Why is the Justice system so fucked up? Why do the Guardians of the Peace get away with everything up to and including murder? 'Manned by lawyers,' yup. But that's hardly a boast.

One poster above suggested that it was improper for Niall to have served the summonses personally on two of the Gardaí. I would not agree with this completely, but would suggest that it would be better to serve members of the Gardaí by registered mail, simply because this way it is easier to prove that they have been served. Don't forget to do a track and trace on the registered letters.

Another poster commented on the old adage, 'a man who represents himself has a fool for a client.' Tis true, we're all fools, the legal profession too. The difference between he who represents himself and he who is represented by another is that the first is his own fool the second is someone else's fool. I think those of the anarchist persuasion might appreciate this point.

The game's wide open and it's far from lost. The more who participate, the merrier and the sooner and the more sure the win.

They will not know what hit them.

author by guydebordisdeadpublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 20:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"A question though for our libertarian community: do anarchists oppose relying on the legal system in this way?"

If people chose this route I would critically support them, as I did the ploughshares, but I wouldn't encourage anyone to have faith in our class system of justice and certainly don't think you can bring down the masters house with the master's tools.

"You oppose participating in general elections or leaning on the constitutuion (both positions with which I can empathise). Does your rejection of the superstructure of capitalism include a complete rejection of bourgeois law and the courts that enforce it?"

We reject electoralism as we do not see parliament as an instrument through which class struggle can be built or furthered, it represents alienated power and can only serve in the interests of class society.

"Exactly how rejectionist are you and how much of this rejectionism is based on political clarity rather than dogmatic and ossified ideology?"

What's the purpose of this question? It's petty and insulting. How does one measure 'rejectionism' or decide where the line between dogma and clarity lie, I'm certain you've already made up your own mind and that was little more than a thinly veiled insult.

author by paul o toolepublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 19:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done Niall, your experience is invaluable forthe next time, as surely as the sun will rise to morrow theres a cop with a baton waiting to take a shot to defend the criminals. When they go to court they usually end up with a fucking promotion. Defense lawyers cant be trusted in this kip of a country, what you are doing is commendable, fair play again to you.

author by MacEpublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 19:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fair play to you for taking them on at their own game, Niall. You couldn't have been expected to know everything, and Mary D. was out of line as well. Beir bua, we'll catch them in the long grass.

Related Link: http://www.essentialaction.org/shell/issues.html
author by Gpublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 17:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm not sure that the libertarian community or anarchists in general have any worked out position in regard to using or not using the courts. I think it makes sense to use whatever legal mechanisms are possible but know that we will never get any real victories or justice in the courts. In the water charges campaign in the '90s for example the anarchists - and other socialists - involved in the campaign encouraged everyone who was summonsed to court for water disconnection cases to turn up to answer the charges, but also encouraged whole communities to turn up to support their neighbours. We knew that any decision made in the courts would be political and that the chances of our winning increased in relation to the number of people who were protesting outside. This two-pronged approach of using the court system to make the Councils prove everything every step of the way, combined with mass protests and letting the State know that they were not going to be able to pick off people one by one in the courts was ultimately successful.

Decisions made by courts are nearly always political. In the X case the reason the State eventually let the girl travel for an abortion had less to do with the law and more to do with the fact that thousands of people tuned out to protest the initial refusal to let her go.

Personally I wouldn't advocate bothering to try to prosecute the cops as Niall outlines above. For one thing I wouldn't have the patience. And for another, in the absence of a mass campaign of political pressure, 'justice' simply doesn't exist for ordinary working-class people. Having said that, I wouldn't criticise this approach. I suppose one thing to be said in its favour is that possibly at some level the fear of being taken on might make the odd cop think twice before smacking someone.

author by davekeypublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 14:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for that one I've saved it in case I ever need it.

author by Libertepublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 14:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A question though for our libertarian community: do anarchists oppose relying on the legal system in this way?

I've never heard it come up, though personally I'd have zero confidence in the state criminal justice system to go and prosecute the Guards and I'd imagine most anarchists would think similarly and probably not engage in it, if only not to waste our time. But not everybody, particularly those who aren't anarchists obviously, would share this analysis and folks like Niall have the determination to give it a go - and write a good article as well. Fair play to him. All in all, relying on any part of the court system, such as applying to the high court for injunctions to prevent Shell doing work or preventing the government from allowing Shannon to be used in imperialist adventures is to play a rigged game. Those decisions are made with regard to the balance of forces rather than with regard to any intrinsic legal merit and as such only work in conjuction with a mass movement anyway.

Obviously, when it comes to being prosecuted it makes sense to mount the best defence possible as there is no particular point in incurring large fines or avoidable jail time, particularly in the absence of a large militant left which can apply pressure elsewhere.

author by law studentpublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 11:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

defends himself in a court of law ,has a fool for a solicitor.Unfortuneatly very true in your case,where you didnt lodge the documents in the court,personally served the papers on the Gardai .Quite amazed the judge didnt pick up on that one as well.and as she rightly said was trying to use the court as a threat.Still an all good try,better luck next time

author by Mary Kellypublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 10:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

your article reminds me of this book by Art Berg, a young man who lost the use of his limbs due to brain stem injury suffered in a car accident. His heroic efforts to "get back on his feet" have a relationship father a family and achieve the impossible on many levels, was based he said on mistakes, which he learned to welcome with open arms, as they are the best teacher.

Thanks Niall for documenting the legal process you are going through. Its very very important and useful for us all to know how to take a stand in the courts, make them our place( we, the People ) to get justice, and feel at ease in fighting for our rights on very alien territory. Its a massive undertaking, & your simple thorough acccount is appreciated.

Please add a link to your excellent indymedia artice documenting our rights

author by Aronpublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 10:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Good report and fair play for taking the initiative on this Niall
Keep it up

author by bjpublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 09:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Great, honest, article.

"It was just a dishonest effort to smear me, which the judge regrettably entertained by asking questions about my legal and journalistic ‘qualifications’ which were not relevant to the court and which I will know better the next time not to respond to."
- way to piss off the judge don't you think?

author by Bikerpublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 09:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fair dues to you for publishing this, it may be useful to others. As usual the law is stacked up on the side of the Gardaí, no matter what abuses or violence they dish out. The onus "to prove your case" doesn't lie so heavily on them, once they say you did it that's it, the judge takes it at face value. How can you prove your case if your camera's been smashed, you've been kicked about and beaten and anyone seeking to go witness for you is intimidated and regarded as an unreliable witness. The whole country witnessed the thuggery of the gardaí at Bellanaboy last September and since then on television and on YouTube videos, but it doesn't seem to matter to the judiciary or the media who are all on Shell's side, and probably in their pay.

author by leftistpublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 09:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

great piece of reflection and very interesting & useful.

A question though for our libertarian community: do anarchists oppose relying on the legal system in this way? You oppose participating in general elections or leaning on the constitutuion (both positions with which I can empathise). Does your rejection of the superstructure of capitalism include a complete rejection of bourgeois law and the courts that enforce it? Exactly how rejectionist are you and how much of this rejectionism is based on political clarity rather than dogmatic and ossified ideology?

Personally, I think the legal system is completely weighed against leftist political litigants, but there are times when it is worth a shot. What's the anarchist position on this?

I ask because I'm genuinely curious and see large contradictions in the present-day anarchist approach to the state and its institutions.

Questions, questions...

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