Colin Duffy and Brian Shivers Trial: Just where is Justice in British courts? (Independent Republican News)
Legal Gymnastics or Political Interference?
A reading of the judgment, by Lord ‘justice’ Hart, in the cases of Colin Duffy and Brian Shivers must seem like a wet dream for legal anoraks and students of the criminal justice system. That ‘justice’ Hart will retire after this case is probably the only saving grace that the beleaguered criminal justice system can take out of this bizarre and very ‘unlegal’ judgment.
Notwithstanding the obvious and criminal fact that, the case put against Colin Duffy and Brian Shivers, defied a most basic tenet of inquisitorial jurisprudence that is, refusing to allow these men to stand trial before a jury of their peers. ‘Justice’ Hart’s judgment turns, what has been claimed by many to be the corner stone of the English criminal justice system, on its head? That principle is, the right of the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Central to this presumption is the fact that as an innocent person, a defendant, in a ‘criminal’ case, is not compelled to take the stand and leave him/herself exposed to the manipulations of a highly trained prosecution barrister. Rather, two sets of ‘experts’ contest the facts and allegations of a case, thus ensuring parity and no negative inference should be drawn from a defendants refusal to take the stand.
However, in the world according to ‘justice’ Hart, he contends that that Colin Duffy’s refusal to take the stand indicates, “strong suspicion that Duffy did know that [an attack on Massereene army barracks] was what was going to happen”. Why would a trained judge make such an ascertation? Even if one accepts that Colin Duffy’s DNA was left in the cavalier car rather than planted at a later date, remember the DNA evidence was found after not during the scenes of the crime investigation, why would this indicate involvement in the attack at Massereene?
Or why could the 101 other ways in which DNA has been proven to be transferred not have been the case?
Additionally and resulting from the fact that DNA cannot be dated, how can ‘justice’ Hart conclude that Colin Duffy’s DNA ‘appeared’ after the car had been purchased two weeks before the attack? To further undermine ‘justice’ Hart’s grasp of criminal justice is the fact, disclosed in court, that multiple sources of DNA – including a sample of one of the forensic team – were found. Does suspicion fall on all of these people also until they take the stand in a court of law? Of course such a contention would be ludicrous, but that is exactly what ‘justice’ Hart is implying. So if you are a mechanic who ever worked on that cavalier car I would advise you to contact your solicitor at once.
In the case of Brian Shivers, ‘justice’ Hart’s comments are even more bizarre. He contends in his judgment that, three matchsticks found in the car and at the scene of the alleged burning of the car containing Brian Shiver’s DNA, combined with his “unconvincing” alibi testimony, lead him to conclude that Brian Shivers was guilty on all counts. This conveniently ignores the legal precedent that evidence on a moveable object cannot be claimed to be conclusive, because the history of the objects and their possession cannot be determined conclusively – innocent until proven guilty!
Even if ‘justice’ Hart could be given the benefit of the doubt – always a risky endeavor when dealing with matters of fact- what evidence or information did ‘justice’ Hart have that allowed him to conclude that the matchsticks were not planted, either by those who wanted to see a republican in prison, or even by those who carried out the attack to create a ‘false’ trail? And even if one could stretch further their belief in the benefit of the doubt scenario, what in the evidence indicates that Brian Shivers in any way had “common purpose” with those who carried out the attack? If Brian Shivers had said in testimony that he had been paid to burn a car for an insurance claim would he have been charged with fraud rather than murder? In short, ‘justice’ Hart has not only turned the fundamental principles of criminal justice on their head, he has also set a worrying precedent that will undoubtedly be exploited by the RUC and their aid agencies when they weigh up whether or not to plant evidence –as was proven in the Sean Hoey case – particularly nebulous evidence such as DNA.
That Brian Shivers’ legal team have announced that they will be appealing the verdict is to be welcomed. This should allow those concerned with the implementation of the criminal justice and human rights watch dogs to bring a forensic examination to this ruling and place it where it belongs, as an example of the frailties of the human condition when left alone to decide on matters of life or death. Perhaps that is why some people believe in a God.


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