Friday, 17 January 2014

Martin Corey held for four years in prison without trial?

So says a BBC news report on his release.

This is a very sloppy piece of reporting by the BBC who appear to have fallen for Corey's supporters politically-charged spin on events, rather than the legal reality.

Corey was given a life sentence for murder.  As this guide from the Ministry of Justice makes explains:

Released lifers:

  • are subject to a life licence which remains in force for the duration of their natural life;
  • may be recalled to prison at any time to continue serving their life sentence if it is considered necessary to protect the public

There has been all sorts of waffle put about by his sympathisers about the "lack of due process", that he never "faced a fair trial" or that he was "never questioned by the Police."  All of this, while true, completely misses the point: there is no need for him to be charged with anything to have his licence revoked, nor is there any need for him to be questioned by the Police about anything.

All that is needed is a recommendation by the Parole Commissioners that he has breached the conditions of his licence or is a danger to the public, and his licence is revoked and he returns to prison to continue serving his life sentence.  Corey did face trial, in 1972, and the four years he has spent in prison since 2010 are part of the sentence he received then.

Remember, these are the same Parole Commissioners who recommended his release, on licence, in 1992.  They have the authority to revoke it.  But a parole hearing is not a mini trial, and even with that, Mr. Corey did have a Special Advocate (a government appointed barrister with security clearance to view the confidential material which is withheld from Corey and his lawyers) appointed to represent his interests in the proceedings.

The initial decision by a single Parole Commissioner to revoke his licence was then reviewed by a panel of Commissioners, with the Special Advocate present to advance Mr. Corey's interests.  As the Supreme Court judgment that denied his application for judicial review of the decision noted:
On 15 August 2011 the panel gave its decision. This comprised both a closed and an open judgment. In a detailed ruling which formed part of the open judgment, the panel stated that it was satisfied that Mr Corey had become involved in the Continuity Irish Republican Army from early 2005 and that he was in a position of leadership in that organisation from 2008 until his recall to prison. It was concluded that the appellant posed a risk of serious harm to the public at the time of his recall. 
Mr. Corey's lawyers applied for judicial review of this decision, and at first instance the High Court held that Mr. Corey and his lawyers had been given insufficient details of the 'gist' of the alleged breaches of his licence that led to his being recalled to prison.  This was overturned on appeal by the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland, which held that "the material provided to the appellant and his advisers was sufficient to allow him to give effective instructions to those representing him. There was therefore no breach of article 5(4) of the [European] Convention [on Human Rights]:
“Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.”
There were technical arguments about whether the High Court had the authority to grant Corey bail after concluding that the original decision to revoke his licence had been unfair (the Supreme Court held, rightly in my opinion, that it did not), but the bottom line is that Martin Corey was not held for four years without trial, and it was not 'like internment'.

I am slightly uncomfortable about the fact that one of the conditions attached to his renewed licence is that he doesn't talk to the media, but I am understand the rationale behind it.  However, I doubt whether the blanket ban would withstand a challenge under Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) in the ECtHR.

In any case, this was a very poor piece of reporting from the BBC on this matter.

UPDATE: UTV are at it as well, describing his licence as 'bail conditions'.

Really Northern Ireland, if you are going to cover legal matters, don't use journalists who don't understand the law.

Oh, and

No comments: