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Legal matters redux July 5, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The aftermath of the Jobstown acquittals has been curious. Whether one thinks there was a conspiracy or not the obsession with much of the media in relation to social media is odd. A good example is the Sunday Times which in an editorial headed ‘Jobstown Seven’s outspoken mob mocks our justice system’ complained at length about the use of social media by those involved in the campaign on behalf of those charged.

“Public analysis by [the defendants] and other of alleged flaws in the evidence’ ‘tweeting live form the court-room’ ‘rallies’ etc.

Of course there’s a very simple way to deal with all these complaints – not that I’m recommending this, but just saying if this is the complaint then the logic is clear. Ban them. Ban the lot. And then prosecute those who continue.

But that’s hugely unlikely to happen. And there’s a basic flaw in the editorial too.

After a lengthy outline of these issues it goes:

Intended or not, the net effect of all the tweets, rallies, placards, courtroom packing and social media campaigns waged by left-wing TDs and their supporters could only have been to put pressure on the jury to come to a ‘not guilty’ verdict. That the jury eventually did so, one hopes, was solely due to the weakness of the prosecution case and not because of the undue influence of the relentless campaign waged on behalf of the defendants.

Ah. The prosecution.

The ST itself continues:

The case against the defendants did not succeed, one presumes, because of inadequacies in the garda investigation of the Jobstown sit down protest in 2014.

And:

It can certainly be argued that the DPP ‘overcharged’ bringing a more serious prosecution than was warranted by the evidence.

And:

It is incontrovertible that some gardai let themselves down badly, when their sworn testimony was disproved by video evidence. But these flaws are proof of incompetence, not of conspiracy.

Hmmm… perhaps so, but given the earlier argument was complaints about supporters of the defendants why introduce conspiracy at all. And given that the inadequacies of the prosecution are so evident why complain about chatter on social media which – given the summing up by the Judge early last week which in outlining the case and evidence was such that many of us came away convinced there would be an acquittal given the paucity of the prosecution arguments.

If the ST and others cannot point to a direct casual link between that social media chatter and the acquittals, indeed has to accept from the off that the prosecution case was remarkably, some would say, appallingly weak, then it seems perverse to be continually dragging this into new territory concluding that…

The Solidarity TD has boasted that the Jobstown case was won ‘both inside and outside the courtroom’. If so, that is a damaging precedent. The criminal justice system will have to consider how to stop it happening again. Other wise a social media mob may eventually be responsible for a serious miscarriage of justice.

‘If’ is the key word in the above.

There’s a broader point and it is a contextual one. This was a rather unique trial – it was focused on political protest and the limits of same. Given that there’s a performative aspect to same on all sides involved – once a protest doesn’t turn violent – it seems somewhat absurd to pretend that this is directly analogous to other situations. The threat levels to those involved in such protests are actually relatively minor (and there’s another issue that if they become otherwise they then become self-limiting, as has long been argued by those who were involved in the organisation of the march through London against the poll-tax which turned violent). The risks equally are low.

Talking to someone who had a role in policing precisely these sort of events at public institutions over the years their analysis some years back was that the only people that genuinely concerned them was non-mainstream Republicans. Everyone else would sooner or later fold their tents and go home peacefully. Or as was put to me by someone else, in some ways those at the centre of events at Jobstown were perhaps lucky Paul Murphy et all were there to keep a lid on matters.

There’s no dispute that this was an unpleasant experience for those involved but that is in some ways a given in relation to political activity. Quite a few times I was verbally abused turning up on doorsteps as a WP member – indeed there’s one person who comments on here regularly who doesn’t remember this but who gave me quite an earful when I arrived at their door in the mid-1980s! I’ll say nothing more 🙂 . I’ve been at meetings where the air could be cut with a knife, had to sit in rooms as political opponents sang, shall we say, uncomplimentary songs about the party I was a member of. Even later with the rather more emollient figure that was Tony Gregory, at least amongst constituents, there were those who were short or aggressive or even very hostile. You roll with it. You expect the unexpected. You understand that protests may be tough, and hard-going and prolonged. You certainly should if you’re in government during a time of austerity and are pushing a programme that has direct negative impacts on communities.

It’s this lack of perspective that is both troubling and – in an odd way – entertaining in the ST editorial. The broader ramifications of this are likely minimal. This was a very specific circumstances, the events have moved on. They’re unlikely to be replicated in quite this way.

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Comments»

1. Alibaba - July 5, 2017

The Establishment will use any measure they can to inflict damage, queue damning social media usage. Following the Jobstown trial they are seriously miffed at their dismal failure to hammer the left and the protestors by their disastrous undertakings via media, gardaí response, judicial proceedings etc.

As to whether there was a conspiracy or not, I see Fintan O’Toole disputed that there was a conspiracy. It was “just class bias”. And a bias enacted by what? It was blindingly clear that Jobstown was a political trial. Yet not a mention of the independent public inquiry request by O’Toole thereafter.

The accused in the Jobstown Trial were spectacularly successful because they stood their ground against those who sought to demolish their defence. If social media usage enhanced that process, so what.

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2. Ed - July 5, 2017

So much that’s utterly laughable about this line of argument:

1) The idea that it was just social media that might have influenced the jury: there was wall-to-wall coverage of the Jobstown protest and the impending trial in traditional media that was overwhelmingly negative and which assumed that the defendants were guilty of a serious crime (indeed, it was largely because of the media hysteria in 2014 that the DPP must have felt it was necessary to bring serious criminal charges; minor public-order charges never would have been enough). The idea that any man or woman living in what is a fairly small country can have avoided hearing that stuff from 2014 onwards is a joke; even if they never opened a newspaper or listened to the news, they would have picked up on it through word of mouth. All the talk about social media influencing the perception of what happened in Jobstown is a bleat from traditional media who think that’s their exclusive right.

2) The stuff about ‘overcharging’, now being hawked by everyone from Brendan Howlin to Pat Leahy: not one of them said a word about ‘overcharging’ before the acquital. They were clearly banking on a conviction, resulting in lengthy prison sentences. If they thought the charges were excessive, they would have said so before last Thursday. This is just a pitiful attempt to put the defendants on trial again and convict them on nebulous, unspecified charges that never have to be tested in a court of law. The reality is, if the DPP wanted to bring serious criminal charges that brought with them the prospect of long spells in prison, ‘false imprisonment’ was the only way to go. The defendants couldn’t be accused of violence against people or property, since it didn’t happen. The Guards and the DPP had to try and make a ‘false imprisonment’ charge stick or resign themselves to the kind of charges that would only result in a modest fine.

3) ‘Mocks our justice system’: I would have said this case was a vindication of one part of our justice system, trial by jury. The jury showed great integrity and intelligence in refusing to be browbeaten by nearly 200 Garda witnesses and making up their own minds about what happened that day. Of course, trial by jury is not something that many journalists look on fondly (just mark their enthusiasm for preserving and extending the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court). When they talk about ‘mocking our justice system’, they really mean the Guards. There’s a basic assumption running through the whole system that the Guards are trustworthy, they can be relied up to gather evidence and take statements in a reliable way, and their word can be believed when they testify in court themselves. You can’t really have a functioning legal system without that assumption. When the Guards abuse that and try to use the authority of their uniform to secure unwarranted convictions with their testimony, they make a mockery of the whole system. I’ve seen them do it in cases to do with protests with a much lower profile quite a few times over the years; sometimes they get the conviction they were looking for, at worst they lose the case but face no consequences for having given testimony that was flagrantly contradicted by video evidence. I have to say, there’s something glorious about seeing them throw everything onto the scale in an attempt to get a conviction here and come up miserably short.

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3. sonofstan - July 5, 2017

When they say ‘our’ legal system they mean ‘their’ legal system.

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4. Ferdia McGruber - July 5, 2017

The length of the Jobstown trial, during which it was deemed necessary to call every Garda present on the day to the witness stand, was patently designed to send a message. To put this in context, the trial of Eddie Gallagher and Marion Coyle for an actual kidnapping only lasted 4 weeks.

https://books.google.ie/books?id=cbpIAgAAQBAJ&pg=PT42&lpg=PT42&dq=Tiede+Herrema+trial&source=bl&ots=Kr22ZzZyRU&sig=XEffbuGv1zVnumS0l-0XHI5kTJw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiQs7mI__LUAhVpLsAKHfoXDncQ6AEIYDAL#v=onepage&q=Tiede%20Herrema%20trial&f=false

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