Covert surveillance ‘Turned off’ during PSNI intimidation
Defense teams for the Craigavon Two were in the appeal court today to seek disclosure of surveillance material relating to the harassment by the PSNI of a key defense witness for the upcoming appeal.
The close family member of Witness M, the key prosecution witness, came forward and gave a sworn affidavit destroying Witness M and his credibility.
The Close family member was visited at his home by the PSNI who he says forced their way in and threatened him to withdraw his sworn testimony, the family member refused to bow to the pressure and the following day was arrested and held for two days in Dungannon PSNI Station where he says he was pressured into withdrawing his testimony.
When this was revealed on the 29th of April on the first day of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton’s appeal it was revealed that a covert surveillance operation had been directed against the new witness and the legal teams, this led to the adjournment of the appeal until October.
It came to light as part of the arrest of the new witness that his house had been bugged for a considerable period of time and that these audio recordings had been transcripted, yet today the prosecution claimed in court that their was no audio available for the day when the new witness claims he was harassed and threatened by the PSNI.
Lawyers for Brendan and John Paul also claimed authorisation for a police surveillance operation was improperly obtained in a bid to sabotage attempts to overturn their convictions.
The allegations were made during applications for the disclosure of more material before appeal hearings get underway next month.
Particular questions were raised over why no material was available from the day in April when officers called to speak to the new witness.
“The relevance is to show the demeanour of (the man). He was not a man under pressure,” the defence lawyer explained.
But prosecution counsel insisted that there was no further material available.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Coghlin, suggested it may be surprising that no recordings were carried out on the day police went to the house.
The prosecution said: “For the rather prosaic reason … there was no other audio sought that day.”
Dealing with the defence applications, Sir Declan said the issues surrounding surveillance authorisation under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) would be kept under review.
He added: “We are not prepared at this stage to order disclosure in relation to the remaining matters sought in light of prosecution indications given to us.”
The Justice for the Craigavon Two group calls for an immediate end to the threat and harassment of the defense witness and the full disclosure of the covert material held by the PSNI we also call for an end to the sinister targeting and surveillance of defense lawyers who must be free to do their work unimpeded and without fear for their safety.
Brendan and John Paul’s appeal opens again on the 8th of October we ask everyone to watch closely the appeal process and help overturn this serious miscarriage of justice.
It is Brendan and John Paul today, based on the tactics and shocking lack of evidence in this case it could be you Tomorrow!!!
Tony Catney talks to Radio ‘Free Eireann’ about The ‘Craigavon Two’ and of Miscarriages of Justice.
Police ‘tried to sabotage appeal in constable murder case
Police have made an apparent attempt to sabotage appeals by two men convicted of murdering Constable Stephen Carroll, a court heard yesterday.
A new witness in the case of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton was arrested last week and held for two days before being released without charge in a bid to pressure him into withdrawing his evidence, it was claimed.
Senior judges were told officers had forced their way into his home and warned him he would be discredited if he went to court.
Yesterday the planned five-day hearing of the appeal by the pair found guilty of the killing was adjourned because of uncertainty over the potential fresh evidence.
Defence lawyers said they would lodge a complaint with the police ombudsman’s office.
Constable Carroll was ambushed and shot dead as he responded to an emergency call at Lismore Manor in Craigavon in March 2009.
McConville (41), of Glenholm Avenue in the town, is serving at least a 25-year sentence for the murder. Wootton (22), of Collingdale, Lurgan, received a minimum 14 year term. Dressed in dark suits and wearing shirts and ties, both men were led handcuffed into a packed Court of Appeal for the planned opening of their challenge.
Family, friends and supporters including Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six, gathered in the public gallery a few feet away from the murdered officer’s widow Kate Carroll.
They heard prosecution counsel Ciaran Murphy QC seek an adjurnment because of the new developments. He said an arrest had been made last week as part of a surveillance operation. “There are a number of lines of inquiry that are not yet complete” he said. Two lever-arch files of new material have emerged and include the contents of 11 interviews. Mr Murphy indicated that ongoing police inquiries could take several weeks.
McConville’s barrister Barry MacDonald QC stressed that the prosecution case was based entirely on circumstantial evidence, primarily from a man identified only as witness M who claimed to have seen McConville in the area at the time of the killing.
Earlier this month a relative of witness M who did not testify at the trial gave an affidavit branding him a compulsive liar the court heard. Mr MacDonald said the affidavit stated “that he was known in the family as a Walter Mitty, that he made up stories, that he had a fertile imagination and you could not believe anything he said”. According to the relative witness M could not have taken the route he claimed on the night of the murder because his partner was not welcome in his home.
Mr MacDonald told the court “Then last Monday two police officers called at the house of this witness on whose fresh evidence we rely. On my instructions it appears they forced their way into the house and proceeded to warn him that if he went to court he would be discredited.”
The three appeal judges , Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan and Lords Justices Higgins and Coghlin, were informed that letters of complaint were also to be sent to the Public Prosecution Service and the Law Society amid concerns that covert surveillance might have been used both against the witness, his solicitor or both.
Mr MacDonald described the application to adjourn the hearing as “suspicious to say the least”. Defence teams have no faith in police carrying out an investigation into the issues raised because of the apparent conflict of interest, the barrister said.
It was alleged that officers had been able to “arrest this witness and to subject him to pressure – we say improper pressure – with a view to securing the withdrawal of his evidence and therefore undermining the appeal”.Mr MacDonald called for a more independent oversight process. “I’m simply registering strong objection to the conduct that appears to have taken place here and flagging up our deep concerns at the prospect that police should be given more time to sabotage this appeal and put their case together,” he said.
Following discussions Sir Declan confirmed that the hearing would be postponed until October.
Solicitors seek ‘independent’ investigators
Solicitors acting for Brendan McConville will ask a court to appoint “independent” investigators after the PSNI was accused of trying to “sabotage” his appeal. Kevin Winters last night said he would ask the Court of Appeal to allow the Criminal Cases Review Commission to oversee the PSNI investigation into a new witness in the case just days after that witness signed an affidavit for the defence team.
The arrest was made after a surveillance operation that is understood to have focused on several people.
It is believed to be the first time a court in the north will be asked to remove control of an investigation from the PSNI and hand it to the commission. Set up in 1997 the commission reviews possible miscarriages of justice. Defence solicitors say it can oversee police investigations in certain circumstances.
Mr Winters emphasised the need for an independent body to look at the matter. The police ombudsman’s office has also been asked to probe the circumstances of the witness’s arrest. “We have concerns and they were highlighted in court about the manner in which the police have approached this and have written to the police ombudsman and in the strongest terms voiced our grave concerns,” Mr Winters said.
The lawyer said he had also written to the Law Society and had asked the Public Prosecution Service to confirm whether it had offered direction or advice to the PSNI in relation to the arrest of witness M’s relative. A PSNI spokesman said “police inquiries into this matter are continuing and as such it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”
Published in Irish News 30/4/13
Please find attached a picture of the article
Statement from the ‘Justice for the Craigavon Two’ campaign group. 29/04/13
Today Both Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton were returned to Maghaberry Jail on the first day of their appeal against the wrongful conviction for the killing of PSNI officer, Constable Carroll.
It was with a sense of disbelief in the opening moments of the hearing that the public prosecution service called for an immediate adjournment due to what they called fresh evidence coming forward from a covert intelligence operation.
This ‘intelligence’ is purporting to the arrest of a new defence witness. This defence witness is a close relation of the key prosecution witness (Witness M) who is central to the original prosecution case.
The new witness had made a statement which discredited the original testimony of witness M and we believe that the arrest was used as a tool of intimidation as the new Witness was released unconditionally within 48 hours of being arrested.
This development indicates the lack of factual evidential information surrounding this case, rather it is a case built upon the dubious practices of covert agents and surveillance.
This practice has now been extended to the defendants’ legal team, family members and members of the Craigavon Two campaign committee, who it has now been revealed were subjected to a covert surveillance and recording operation.
What began as a call for Justice for the Craigavon Two has now clearly been shown to be a case of Justice for us all with the full implementation of the justice system in an open and transparent fashion, free from interference from unaccountable agents of the intelligence services.
In light of today’s events, and the additional delay in hearing of this case, which means that the defendants will have already served nine year sentences we call for both Brendan and John Paul to be released immediately on bail pending the withdrawal of what has now become a farcical and unsustainable conviction.
Signed the Justice for the Craigavon Two Campaign Group
Letter from the Craigavon Two, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton
We the Craigavon Two as we have become known, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton are to begin our appeal against our life sentence convictions for the killing of PSNI member Stephen Carroll.
We have consistently maintained our innocence and we believe as do others that the case against us represents a serious miscarriage of justice,we were tried in exceptional circumstances under the old and seriously flawed Diplock process, a hangover from the long conflict here, this system deprived us of a trial by a jury of our peers, instead a single judge presided over and convicted us.
The entire case against us was circumstantial and we believe seriously flawed, large tracts of evidence was hidden from us and the public, claiming national security. Public interest immunity certificates prevented our defence from properly investigating the evidence and cross examining witnesses vital to our defence case, in effect we were left with one arm tied behind our backs. We do not believe this represents clear and transparent justice.
A number of groups and individuals after reading into our case have expressed sufficient concern that many have stated publicly they will be attending the appeal process to provide independent oversight.
Our appeal starts on Monday (29,4,13) we the Craigavon Two, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton call on you, the public to observe the appeal process, this warped version of justice is being administered in your name and we ask you to look past the sensationalist headlines and look at the cold hard facts of this case, your voice matters ,do not let this miscarriage of justice continue in your name.
The Craigavon Two
Brendan McConville & John Paul Wootton
Sent on behalf of Brendan and John Paul
by the JFTC2 group.
Paddy Hill of the Birmingham 6 says the Craigavon Two are INNOCENT
One of the Birmingham Six has voiced concern about the convictions of two men for the murder of PSNI officer Stephen Carroll.
Paddy Hill last night questioned evidence used in the case of Co Armagh men Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton for the 2009 killing.
Mr Hill served 16 years in English jails after being wrongfully convicted of taking part in the simultaneous bombing of two pubs in Birmingham city center in 1974.
The Provisional IRA was blamed for the attacks which killed 21 people.
Mr Hill (67) and 5 other men were finally released from prison in 1991 and since then he has campaigned on behalf of people he believes are also victims of miscarriages of justice.
In May last year Lurgan man McConville (41) was jailed for a minimum of 25 years for Constable Carroll’s murder.
Wootton (21), from Craigavon, was told he will have to serve a mimimum of 14 years.
Both men denied any involvement in the Continuity IRA sniper attack as Mr Carroll answered an emergency call in Craigavon.
The pair will begin an appeal later this month in a bid to overturn their convictions.
Mr Hill said last night that he intends to travel from his home in Scotland, where he runs the Miscarriage of Justice Organisation (MOJO) to attend the case in Belfast.
“We don’t just jump into bed with anyone because they say they are innocent.” he said.
“The evidence in this case is very flimsy and very dodgy and i see this happening all the time.”
Mr Hill said he was concerned about the evidence of a key prosecution witness who was later said to have bad eyesight, He also highlighted missing data from a British army tracking device placed in Wootton’s car.
“You are making a judgement on the evidence produced and on the evidence produced i don’t believe these boys are guilty,” he said.
“This case throws up more questions than answers and the more you look at the prosecution evidence the more you become confused because the half of it does not make sense at all.”
Mr Hill said he had no interest in the politics of the case.
“It’s not about politics, it’s about one thing and one thing only justice, innocence or guilt.
“If i read the papers and thought they were guilty I would go to the jail and tell them why i thought they were guilty.”
Mr Hill said he had sympathy for Constable Carroll’s widow Kate and was willing to meet her to explain his position.
“My heart goes out to her,” he said. “but to be honest with her, if they are guilty they should have the evidence to prove it and not be looking for scapegoats.”
Mr Hill is not the first high profile campaigner to voice concerns about the case.
Last year, Gerry Conlon who was wrongfully convicted of the 1974 Guilford bombings told the Irish News that he also believes the pair may be the victims of “a miscarriage of justice.”
Mr Conlon, who served 15 years in jail, is the chairman of the Justice for the Craigavon Two campaign.
Both men recently featured on a short film highlighting concerns about the case which has been posted on YouTube.
A number of human rights groups, including the Committee on the administration of Justice, have said they will send representatives to the appeal hearing.
Fianna Fail TD and former Irish government minister Eamon O Cuiv has also said he will attend.
IR News’ Interview with the ‘Craigavon Two’ (Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton)
Following the recent announcement that a date has been set (29 April 2013) for the appeal of the ‘Craigavon Two’ (Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton) who were convicted of the killing of PSNI Constable Carroll in 2009, IR News exclusively interviews both Brendan and John Paul who are presently incarcerated in Maghaberry jail for an action that they both vehemently deny.
When asked the question why they think their plight has been so successful in gaining support from many prominent public figures such as Gerry Conlon (Guildford four), Paddy Hill (Birmingham six), Eamon O Ciuv TD and the Committee for the Administration of Justice to name but just a few, they replied;
“We both believe this is due to the eventual realisation that the process through which we were convicted was at best unsafe and upon even a cursory examination of the evidence presented at trial, it is clear that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.”
“The facts of the case are a matter of public record and are there for anyone who wishes to see them. However, those facts only tell one side of the story and we want to tell everyone just what it is like to be serving a sentence for something we had nothing to do with and how this has affected every single member of our immediate families and circle of friends.”
Both men described their ordeal as a “nightmare” that began on the morning of 10th March 2009 when heavily armed P.S.N.I personnel arrived at the home of Brendan and his 14 year old son and from where he was conveyed to Antrim barracks. A short time later, John Paul was to be accosted on the street, in the full glare of the media spotlight and subsequently, he too was taken to Antrim where both of them were to undergo two weeks of sustained and relentless interrogation, during which time the P.S.N.I., they claim, were to “contrive to cobble together a case against us using unconvincing and at most, weak circumstantial evidence.”
Continuing, “This horrifying and traumatic fortnight culminated in both of us being charged and again being thrust back into the media feeding frenzy as we were brought before court then rapidly transported to Hydebank and Maghaberry Prisons respectively where our enduring ordeal was continuing to unfold. Throughout this torment and while struggling to comprehend the magnitude of the events which had just occurred, we were both acutely aware of simultaneous distress and anxiety being experienced by our families, one which continues to envelop ourselves and our loved ones.
Notwithstanding the obvious depravities and constant humiliations that we have experienced throughout our incarceration our families and loved ones have also had to share this indignity by having to undergo rigorous searches and a loss of intimacy as we struggle to maintain and nourish close family bonds, within a very restricted environment and insufficient periods of time which are allowed to accommodate a single weekly visit.”
“During this period we sustained ourselves with the thought that this nightmare could soon be over once we got to trial, because surely a court would see that the evidence being presented against us was at best circumstantial and at worst contrived. However, on the 30th March 2012 we and our families were to receive the most disturbing and distressing news of all, when we were both found guilty by a single judge in a Diplock court, and sentenced to life in prison. We were both returned to prison that day in a complete state of shock and utter bewilderment as to how the trial judge had arrived at this conclusion, given the erroneous and contradictory evidence that the prosecution had put before the court.
The final insult was to come in the form of misleading and inaccurate allegations which were to find their way into some less reputable media outlets, which called into question our conduct throughout the trial. We found these accusations to be particularly hurtful and offensive, as at all times throughout this painful ordeal, our focus was solely confined to the evidence which each witness was to give, and at no time did we conduct ourselves in a manner which was intended to cause upset or offence to anyone.
We wish to take this opportunity to thank those who have continuously supported our campaign for justice throughout this dark period in our lives and would like to recount our harsh experiences during the past number of years, and attempt to give an insight into the demoralizing effect that this has had on our families and relationships.”
Should this indeed be a ‘miscarriage of justice’ it has then denied John Paul the opportunity of enjoying all the typical milestones which would normally be celebrated by others of his age group, such as his eighteenth and twenty first birthdays, and he has missed out in what is a very important time in the life of all young people for building lasting relationships and a career.
It has also deprived Brendan of participation in significant events in in the life of his young family, such as his sons’ progression through their final and most important years of school and into the workplace.
The harsh reality is that both men and their families must face an uncertain future where every family celebration or time of shared grief will be incomplete with their conspicuous absence.
The toll that this injustice has exacted on the entire McConville family, cannot be understated, as Brendan’s family have previously been visited by tragedy, when his uncle, Myles Scullion, a father of five, was the innocent victim of loyalist paramilitaries, when he was shot and killed by two UVF gunmen after answering the front door of his home of Craigavon, a crime for which no-one has ever been arrested or even questioned for. On talking to Brendan it is clear that he had hoped that by this stage in their lives his parents could take some pleasure from their well-earned retirement, rather than finding themselves in the unfamiliar territory of campaigning for their son’s freedom.
This entire ordeal has had a similarly profound effect on the Wootton family with John Paul’s mother having to juggle travelling from Maghaberry Prison, where John Paul is now being held, in an effort to maintain close family links, while caring for and struggling to retain a semblance of normality for John Pauls younger brother, while at the same time also campaigning for her son’s freedom.
Having to watch her son grow from a teenager into a man from across a table in a prison visiting room, has placed an untold strain on the emotional well-being of John Paul’s mother.
We must all ask why and indeed how, did such a clear unconvincing conviction in a Non-jury court manage to find them guilty ….. or perhaps the reason for a conviction had little to do with the pursuit of justice and more to do with protecting vested interests such as Mi5 and their willingness to protect an agent of the state. Either way the facts of the case, we feel, speak for themselves and we would ask anyone concerned with the quality of justice administered in the courts to look at those facts and then come to a conclusion rather than relying on ‘sound bites’ from a sensational tabloid media.
IR News has sought and found a number of impartial legal experts and had them to look at the trial transcripts. Shockingly they all said the same, Justice was not served that day.
CAJ Meet with ‘Justice for the Craigavon Two’ Delegation
The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) met with a delegation from the Justice for the Craigavon Two campaign group recently regarding the convictions and pending appeals of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton. The Group set out its concerns regarding the original non jury trial, talking extensively about the evidence and witness testimony and why the group believe the case to be a miscarriage of justice.The CAJ asked what role they could provide, The JFTC2 group then asked would CAJ be willing to provide independent oversight of the appeal process, following a briefing by both Brendan and John Paul’s legal teams the CAJ agreed to send observers to the appeal which is scheduled to start on April 29th, this was publicised by an article in the Irish News.
Brian Gormally the director of CAJ said the CAJ had been monitoring the case among others and had concerns, he was quoted in the Irish News as saying “The first aspect is obviously it was a no jury trial we are always concerned about no jury trials” he said. “another aspect was involvement of a clandestine military surveillance unit and we are not sure if it was covered by the terms of deployment of the British army here”. He said the CAJ is also concerned about issues arising from the use of a British army tracking device placed in John Paul Wootton’s car. “it appears that was interfered with and wiped by the army,”
Mr Gormally said there was “enough to engage our attention as a human rights organisation” although it would not pre-judge the outcome.
Justice for the Craigavon Two are pleased with the outcome of the meeting and the fact CAJ has committed to observing the trial, before Christmas Fianna Fail TD Eamon O’Cuiv also stated publicly that due to concerns he would be attending the appeal as an independent observer.
View our campaign Video
The Craigavon Two appeal date set
The 29th of April is the date set for the appeals of John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville, who were convicted last year and sentenced to life for the killing of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009.
This appeal comes fast on the back of the quashed convictions and subsequent setting of retrials in the cases of Brian Shivers (in the Massereene Trial) and the three men accused of the murder of school boy Micheal McIlveen.
All these original trials and convictions happened during the same period and were high profile and played out in the media, with the subsequent quashed convictions and the campaign around the case of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton (headed up by MOJ victim and campaigner Gerry Conlon). these raises serious issues with the standard of Justice being delivered in Northern Ireland’s “new dispensation”. A quashed conviction in the case of the Craigavon Two would be a damming indictment of the system and the continued use of Diplock courts.
The recent Media ban put in place by the Norths Lord Chief Justice on the pending retrials in the cases of Brian Shivers and the McIlveen Three, further muddies the waters and smacks of a cover up, weakening one of the key cornerstones of Justice, that it be transparent.
Irish News article
Gerry Conlon interview
Gerry Conlon speaks on Radio Free Eireann New York about his experiences and how they continue today in cases such as the Craigavon Two
click on the link below the show is dated Saturday January 5, 2013 1:00pm, and the interview starts 20 minutes in.
O’Cuiv to attend appeal
Fianna Fail TD Eamon O’ Cuiv has stated after meeting with the family’s and representatives of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, that he is sufficiently concerned about the issues raised about their trial that he will be attending the appeal as an independent observer.
Justice for the Craigavon Two in Dublin
A Justice for the Craigavon two delegation were in Dublin yesterday (12/12/12/) meeting with groups and interested parties in relation to the unsafe convictions of John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville, significantly the delegation was invited to Leinster House by Eamon O’ Cuiv (Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West) Mr O’Cuiv listened to the Groups concerns and was fully briefed on the case and upcoming appeal by our legal representatives. Other TDs were given information kits on the case.
Irish News Coverage