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‘Evidence tampering; lying witness’ cast doubt on Craigavon 2 murder conviction – RT investigates Published time: 6 Sep, 2017 11:28 Edited time: 7 Sep, 2017 19:25 https://on.rt.com/8mbi ‘Evidence tampering; lying witness’ cast doubt on Craigavon 2 murder conviction – RT investigates © Justice For Craigavon Two / Facebook 1.4K4 The ‘Craigavon Two’ were wrongfully convicted of murdering a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) constable amid claims of evidence tampering by security services, abuse of police power and no proof that they were even at the scene, their supporters say. Having exhausted all other options of legal appeal, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton are bracing to find out from the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – which investigates possible miscarriages of justice – whether their case will be referred back to the Court of Appeal. PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, was ambushed and shot dead in County Armagh in 2009 while responding to a 999 call. He was the first police officer to be murdered in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday agreement. View image on Twitter View image on Twitter Follow James Currie @JCBelfast Rembering the family, friends and colleagues of PSNI officer Stephen Carroll who was murdered on this day in 2009 i… 8:30 AM – Mar 9, 2017 Replies 2 2 Retweets 1 1 like Twitter Ads info and privacy In 2012, the ‘Craigavon Two,’ both republicans, were found guilty of Carroll’s murder in a non-jury trial at a Diplock court. While the prosecution never attributed a direct role in the killing to either of them, they were convicted under the joint enterprise law. McConville was sentenced to 25 years, and Wootton to 14, which was later increased to 18. They had been imprisoned for three years before they went to trial. The Court of Appeal in Belfast dismissed a challenge by the pair in 2014, while the Supreme Court in London refused to hear a further appeal in 2015. McConville’s wife, Siobhan McConville, says their case is comparable to that of the infamous miscarriages of justice suffered by the ‘Guildford Four’ and ‘Birmingham Six’. “I believe both men were used as scapegoats. Public pressure demanded a conviction at any cost, and I think that cost was Brendan and John Paul,” she told RT. “This is a terrible miscarriage of justice. We will keep fighting until both men are home.” John Paul Wootton (L), Brendan McConville (R) © Justice For Craigavon Two / Siobhan McConville McConville’s lawyer, Darragh Mackin, has submitted 14 Lever Arch folders of evidence in support of the men to the CCRC. He says circumstantial evidence, along with the misapplication of the joint enterprise doctrine, led to a conviction. “The reality is, a police officer has lost his life, which makes this a highly emotive and politically super-charged prosecution. We feel [the Craigavon Two] have been wrongfully convicted and we will go to the CCRC to overturn this conviction.” Witness M Central to the prosecution case was the evidence of a man identified only as Witness M, who claimed to have seen McConville in the area around the time of the killing. However, Witness M’s “credibility and belief has been entirely undermined,” Mackin says. Witness M did not come forward until almost a year after the murder, by which time both McConville and Wootton’s names had been widely broadcast in the media. Witness M approached police with the information while in a drunken state. Witness M also suffered from astigmatism and short-sightedness, and would have had difficulty identifying McConville from where he claimed he did, Mackin says. Following McConville and Wootton’s conviction, Witness Z, who is the father of M, claimed his son was a ‘Walter Mitty’ character and a compulsive liar. “I didn’t want to see anybody in prison on the word of my son, because I know what he is like,” Witness Z said at the appeal hearing. Under cross-examination, Witness Z said it was not possible for his son to have made the journey he described on the night of the shooting. M’s partner, who was with him on the night, was also unable to corroborate his account at trial. Brendan McConville’s parents with the late Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four © Siobhan McConville Witness Z was arrested and held for two days before the appeal. Police attempted to force him to take back his statement in a bid to sabotage the defence’s case, Mackin says. “The police arrested the relative who provided an affidavit on the basis that he was ‘withholding information in relation to an indictable offence.’ The arrest causes serious questions – the lawfulness, the basis behind it. “It is improper to arrest a witness at any stage, simply for the fact that he provided an affidavit that assisted the defence’s case.” Meanwhile, M received a £50,000 reward from The Sun tabloid as well as payments from the PSNI. The tracking device During the trial, it emerged that Wootton’s car had been fitted with a GPS tracking device by intelligence agency MI5, and was under surveillance at the time Carroll was gunned down. It showed Wootton had been 240 metres from the scene of the killing until ten minutes after the shooting. However, when the tracking device was taken in for analysis by security services, it went “missing” for two weeks, and the three hours after the murder were mysteriously wiped. The court heard that an anonymous MI5 agent said he had left the tracking device on his desk and someone had moved it without his knowledge. It was never made clear why Wootton was being tracked. Peter Kearney, an independent journalist from BaldPolitiKs, who has been following the case for a number of years, told RT: “It’s so bizarre that when people hear it, they don’t believe you. It’s absolutely bizarre – but it’s all in the court transcripts and police interviews. “The tracking device went missing for two weeks, then data on it went missing. The legal team believe that if the data was still there it would prove that Wootton had nothing to do with it.” Kearney added: “It would be good to see some evidence – that is part of the problem. There is nothing that puts the two men at the scene and connects them with the killing. That is what is extraordinary. “That’s not to say that this automatically means that the two men are innocent – they are not the assertions I am making – I’m saying that the trial was not reliable and it needs to be retried.” The coat A brown coat, said to belong to McConville, was found in Wootton’s car – allegedly connecting them to one another and to the crime. The coat, however, did not fit Witness M’s description of what McConville was wearing on the night of the murder, and the coat was dry when obtained by police despite it being a “very, very” wet night when Carroll was killed, Mackin says. A prosecution DNA expert conceded that there were mixed profiles of at least three, and possibly as many as eight, other people along with that of McConville on the coat. It was accepted in court that the DNA could have been distributed on the coat as a result of McConville speaking or sneezing over it while in the car on another occasion. Mackin says while the coat had particles of gunpowder residue on it, the residue did not match that of the rifle used in the killing of Carroll. Joint enterprise McConville and Wootton were convicted of murder under the controversial joint enterprise doctrine, which holds that a person who assists or encourages a crime can be held just as legally responsible as the person who actually carries it out. The prosecution never attributed a direct role in the killing to either party, however, instead forming what Mackin calls “a circumstantial joint enterprise case.” “There is no role in the murder affiliated to either party. At no stage, at no time, has the court actually attributed a direct role in the murder to either individual. Read more Alex Henry. © justiceforalexhenry.co.ukAutistic man serving life for murder despite never touching weapon has appeal rejected “What they say is taking the circumstantial evidence together – McConville being at the scene, the coat being in the car, Wootton’s car moving around the scene around the time of the murder – that there is a role of each of them in the murder, but they don’t know what the role is.” Mackin added: “They have never said that either individual wasn’t the killer. They equally haven’t said that somebody else was the killer. “It remains entirely in a vacuum what they actually purport happened. It still isn’t clear from the Court of Appeal judgment as to what they say happened or who they say carried out which role in the actual murder.” In July, Dublin City Council passed a motion calling for the release of both men. The Craigavon Two’s case has been with the CCRC for almost a year. There is no time limit on how long a case is under review. The CCRC is the only body in the UK that has the power to send a case back to an appeals court if it believes there is a real possibility that the court will overturn a conviction. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred about 3.5 percent of applications it has considered. Of the cases it has referred, about 70 percent have succeeded on appeal. By Mary Baines, RT Share on FacebookShare on Twitter Sponsored Links More From the Web

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Protest at Canadian Embassy

Statement from Craigavon Two.

John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville would like to express their sincere gratitude to Brian Murphy and the IRPWA for the resourceful act of solidarity in Dublin on Thursday 26th May.

This gesture of support captured the attention of the media and briefly focused international attention on the miscarriage of justice which we along with our families and loved ones continue to endure.

Brian’s selfless action momentarily lifted the veil of silence that shrouds all muttering of impropriety in the six counties and give the world a glimpse of just a fraction of injustice that lies beneath. We call upon other individuals and organizations to follow Brian’s example and do what they can do to unlock the truth.

End.‪#‎JFTC2‬
Pictures are from protest at the Canadian Embassy.

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Fundraiser for Craigavon 2 campaign

Save the date folks!! JFTC2 will be in the Rock Bar Belfast on the 24th June with music from Erin Go Bragh and other fantastic acts to be confirmed. Come along have some food, enjoy a great night of entertainment while helping to support the lads

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American students presented with Craigavon 2 case in Derry

Just presented on the Craigavon Two case to American law students in Rosemount Resource Centre, Derry. #jftc2

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JP’s letter in Irish News

Below is a letter from John-Paul Wootton of the Craigavon 2 in today’s Irish News.

It’s really sad reading John describing how he’s being imprisoned since he was 17 years old and missing out on so much of his life while behind bars for something he didn’t do.

Will you help John-Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville gain their freedom?

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jftc2 protest at Downing street

Yesterday on the 16th May 2016, family members of Brendan McConville and John-Paul Wootton took the Justice for the Craigavon Two campaign to 10 Downing Street and along with our friends from the campaign group JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association) demanded an immediate review on all cases of Joint Enterprise – including that of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton. Under joint enterprise legislation a person can be found guilty for another person’s crime, even though under criminal law it is generally only offenders that can be held liable for their actions. In February this year the Supreme Court in London ruled that the principle of joint enterprise had been wrongly interpreted for over thirty years. With so many innocent people, convicted under joint enterprise currently serving life in prisons across Britain and Ireland, we marched with JENGbA to Downing Street yesterday to put pressure upon the British government to review all cases of joint enterprise immediately. In the case of the Craigavon Two, a role has never been attributed to neither Brendan nor John Paul. Kate Carroll (wife of murdered PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll) even stated herself that she believed her husband’s killers were still not apprehended. Yet seven years later Brendan and John Paul are still in Maghaberry prison, serving life sentences for something someone else did. This cannot continue. This is a miscarriage of justice, this is Birmingham, Guildford and Woolwich all over again, this is a violation of human rights, this is an abuse of state power. This is injustice. #jftc2

 

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‪#‎JFTC2‬ campaign members currently with ‪#‎JENGBA‬ outside Downing Street, highlighting miscarriages of justice via ‪#‎JointEnterprise‬

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25th anniversary of release of Birmingham 6

“The 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six should act as a clarion call: there are many innocent men and women languishing in prisons in the UK, who urgently need legal representation to turn the excruciatingly slow wheels of British justice.
We cannot let a miscarriage of justice to this scale ever happen again.”

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It is 25 years since the convictions of the Birmingham Six were quashed amid dramatic scenes at the Old Bailey in London.

Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, Johnny Walker, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny and Billy Power had spent nearly 17 years in prison for crimes they had not committed, and are widely considered to be victims of one the most notorious miscarriages of justice in British history. However, despite efforts to prevent future wrongful convictions, we find that innocent people are still at great risk of suffering perhaps the greatest injury that the state can inflict on its citizens.

When the six were released in 1991, hot on the heels of other high profile miscarriages of justice such as the Guildford Four, it was hoped that lessons would be learned so that wrongful convictions do not happen again.

The Birmingham Six outside the Old Bailey in London, after their convictions were quashed on March 14 1991. Sean Dempsey/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Conservative government set about a root and branch reform of the criminal justice system, and the ensuing report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice made several recommendations for preventing and rectifying miscarriages of justice. However, the chair of the commission, Lord Runciman, has since admitted that no attempt at reform could completely eradicate wrongful convictions.

There are a whole host of reasons why people still find themselves wrongly accused and convicted of crimes. False allegations, especially those involving sexual offences, have resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of innocent people. Prosecutorial misconduct has led to suspects giving false confessions, as in the case of Paul Blackburn.

On occasion, inadequate defence by lawyers can mean that crucial evidence is sometimes missed. Additionally, the testimony of so-called experts can sway a jury to convict, even when the evidence provided does not stand up to scrutiny. In the cases of Sally Clark and Angela Cannings, expert evidence swayed the jury to believe that they had killed their babies, but subsequent research showed that the evidence used to convict them was so methodologically flawed that their convictions were clearly unsafe.

Members of the National Birmingham Six Campaign: Breda Power, MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn, and Maggie McIlkenny, at the Houses of Parliament in 1990. PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

If we can’t prevent wrongful convictions from ever happening, how do we at least ensure that people do not end up spending years, sometimes decades, in prison when they shouldn’t be there?

The Runciman Commission recommended the establishment of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). The Birmingham-based CCRC is an independent body with the remit of investigating possible miscarriages of justice and ensuring that appeals are submitted to the Court of Appeal swiftly. Since it began its work in 1997, the CCRC has referred 615 cases to the Court of Appeal, and of the 590 that have been heard, 404 appeals have been allowed.

In many respects, the work of the CCRC is to be commended. However, it is not the panacea for all the criminal justice system’s ills. The CCRC is inadequately funded, and lacks the resources to investigate every claim fully. In fact, their statutory remit means that they are not there to advocate on behalf of prisoners. They are charged with investigating claims, and making a decision as to whether or not there is a “real possibility” that the Court of Appeal would overturn the conviction.

This can be a real problem when we recognise that two out of three applicants to the CCRC have no legal representation, so their applications are not as rigorous as they might otherwise have been. Criminal appeals lawyers are poorly paid, with the result that many are unable or unwilling to take on cases that might sometimes run for years – especially when the bill is not settled until an appeal is finished.

In 2001, Paddy Hill helped launch MOJO, a new organisation to fight miscarriages of justice. Ian Nicholson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

In recent years, several new initiatives have been set up to assist alleged victims of miscarriages of justice put together their applications to the CCRC. Law schools across the country, including here at Birmingham, have also developed projects to investigate claims of wrongful conviction.

In 2014, Cardiff Law School’s Innocence Project oversaw the successful appeal of Dwaine George, who spent 12 years in prison for the shooting of 18-year-old Daniel Dale in Manchester before his release. Declaring the conviction “no longer safe” Sir Brian Leveson expressly praised the students who had worked so diligently on the appeal.

Earlier this year, the Centre for Criminal Appeals (CCA) received its legal aid contract, enabling it to provide legal assistance to prisoners who cannot afford the cost of a lawyer. The CCA was set up by people with experience of exonerating prisoners in the US, including those facing death sentences. Investigators and lawyers at the CCA emphasise the need for boots-on-the-ground investigation, to complement the desk-based work that has historically characterised criminal appeals work in England and Wales.

These initiatives work alongside campaigning organisations such as The Justice Gap, Inside Justice, and the numerous other groups that have been set up by family members of the incarcerated – but there is only so much that a few committed but poorly paid lawyers and investigators can do.

The 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six should act as a clarion call: there are many innocent men and women languishing in prisons in the UK, who urgently need legal representation to turn the excruciatingly slow wheels of British justice.

We cannot let a miscarriage of justice to this scale ever happen again.