Monday shall see UTV's Insight, with typical
investigative skill, unpick the threads that have
been weaved together post-Patten to fashion a renamed
garment now termed the PSNI. While we do not yet know
either Insight's contents or conclusions, the
very nature of the issues it intends to confront may
lead some viewers to conclude that behind the facade
of a name change, buttressed by RUC front men and
women immersed in a discourse - although crucially
not a culture - of human rights, sits the real policing
agenda in the North. Whatever the new gloss, the nervous
over-the-shoulder glance at Nuala O'Loan, the reworded
title, the primary function of policing here is essentially
what it has always been - political rather than civic.
The PSNI, no less than the RUC, is both the cutting
edge of the British state's willingness to maintain
the union and the guarantor of the state's own skewed
application of the consent principle. The police will
of course pursue firemen who murder their lover's
husband, arrest drug dealers - if they are not in
the UDA, and crack down hard on those who violently
prey on the elderly. Just as they have always done.
Equally so, they will treat with absolute contempt
legal safeguards put in place to protect the citizen
from the type of police abuses that were so frequent
in the past; and which some would hope to bamboozle
us into believing exist only in the past.
a year and half have passed since Martin Brogan was
arrested along with Mark Carroll on a South Down road.
Both men claim they were merely travelling to a filling
station to buy diesel for Carroll's car. For a while
the vehicle's fuel cap had been giving its owner trouble.
The remote control that unlocked it was not working.
Carroll suggested to Brogan that the journey to the
station might be futile if he couldn't open the cap.
They stopped at the next available lay-by so that
Carroll could work on it manually. It would prove
a long and costly break. It was while they had stopped
and disembarked that Martin Brogan claims to have
found a walkie-talkie radio and gloves. When I spoke
to him in his Castlewellan home, just before Christmas,
I asked him why he bothered picking them up. 'Curiosity'
was his response. Such paraphernalia naturally drew
the attention of republicans, he proffered by way
of explanation. While true, there are many who would
raise eyebrows and question the prudence of such a
course, seeing it, even at its most innocent, as a
rash act, a foolhardy rush of blood to the head.
the same time Mark Carroll, a friend and workmate
of Brogan but not a republican of any hue - casually
dismissing the suggestion that he has an interest
in politics - confirms that it was his suggestion
to stop the car. It could have been any lay-by he
pulled into. Brogan's explanation was certainly not
without precedent. I recall being in jail along side
Micky Timmons who ended up serving a life sentence
for his non-involvement in the deaths of two British
Army corporals in West Belfast in 1988. It was part
of the conventional wisdom in the H-Blocks at the
time that Micky got a life sentence for 'being nosy',
as he liked to put it. Like many thousands of the
city's nationalists he had attended the funeral of
IRA volunteer Kevin Brady when the routes of the cortege
and the soldiers converged. Micky ventured over to
peer at the fate being meted out to the corporals
who by now were in the hands of Brady's comrades.
He ended up in jail for it. Common purpose, Judge
Carswell told him and two others who stood mesmerised
in the dock beside him. And Carswell's judicial purpose
was to dish out a common life sentence as a deterrent
to those who might innocently gaze.
they could not force open the petrol cap the two men
opted to turn back, seeing no point in continuing
their journey. On the return route they ran into a
PSNI roadblock, situated just over a mile from Newry
on its border side. The cops searched the car and
found the radio. Martin Brogan refused to answer any
questions. 'Republicans don't.' He is very open about
his republicanism and his dislike of the peace process.
'But opposing the peace process is not illegal.' True,
otherwise the DUP would be in jail rather than in
the mouth of government.
capes were put on both men who were forced to look
away from the car, preventing them observing what
the PSNI were doing at the vehicle. After being detained
on the road for about an hour they were arrested and
taken to Lisburn PSNI station. 15 minutes passed in
the detention room when a cop came in and threw the
coat that had been seized from Martin Brogan on the
table. The item of clothing had obviously been contaminated
in between times and the only reason for it being
thrown into the room, in Brogan's view, was so that
the forensic people would come along and bag it, without
taking note of the fact that it had been out of the
owner's possession for over an hour. A devious legal
by-pass that would dupe the unwary. The forensic team
dutifully traipsed in, performed their swabs and took
DNA. On completion of this they bagged the clothes
and the men were banged up in the cells.
Carroll realised shortly into a questioning session
with his PSNI interrogators that the cops seemed determined
to fashion a case where none existed. When they insisted
'about a hundred times' that he had no valid reason
to stop the car at a lay-by as his petrol cap was
fully functioning, he knew they were lying. Their
claims to have repeatedly tested it and to have found
nothing untoward were false. Forensic scientists in
their eventual report pointed out that the cap did
not respond to remote control signals and could only
be opened manually. Furthermore, his interrogators'
claims that his work cap was a balaclava, convinced
him that the cops just wanted 'to make the evidence
the course of a day matters took on something of a
Kafkaesque twist for Carroll. He found himself charged
with possession of explosives. He was stunned. The
PSNI claimed to have found a bomb in a car a mile
and a half from where they were arrested.
knew that we had nothing to do with any bombs. I
simply didn't know what they were talking about.
As for the radio, I knew nothing about that. Martin
picked it up because I decided to stop at the lay
by to check on the petrol tank cap. They said it
was linked to the car in which the bomb was found.
It was just too fantastic to be true. But here we
were going to jail over it.
Brogan's experience began to shed light on an otherwise
my way to an interview the following day I passed
a man I later found out to be Kevin Patrick Byrne.
I now know him to be a British agent. A Sinn Fein
councillor actually named him as a British agent.
Myself and Mark were charged but Byrne was not.
Byrne was the last known owner of the car in which
the bombs were found. He went through the interview
process like the rest of us. He was released and
has not been seen since. It later transpired from
a pulled forensics report that there was explosives
traces on Byrne's clothes and my own.
Down Democrat would later report that a 'British
agent' was driving the car in which the bomb had been
seized but that he had been released five days later.
Kevin Winters, the solicitor representing the two
accused said that 'from the documents we saw, another
person existed who had been forensically connected
to the explosives recovered but who had been released
without charge.' That old spectre that has long haunted
policing in the North had eluded whatever efforts
Patten had made to exorcise it. Justice was to be
flagrantly breached in the police drive to protect
their agents and conceal their illegal activity from
if Brogan was the unwitting victim of an illegal police
trap how then, if he innocently pulled into a lay-by
and only fortuitously stumbled across items which
the law would deem as 'being useful to terrorists',
could he have traces of explosives on his clothing?
His answer was disturbing. Not least of all because
his legal team rather than himself was making all
the running on the matter and its work formed the
substance of his allegations. While he waited on remand
in Maghaberry Prison one of his legal representatives
had visited Carrickfergus forensic laboratory where
he met with Gerry Murray, Collette Quinn and Ian Fulton,
all senior forensic officers.
the meeting Gerry Murray gave the case file to Aiden
and indicated the presence of a brown envelope clearly
marked 'do not open.' Anything that helped in our
case was contained in that brown envelope. Murray
put it back in the case folder. I have come to the
conclusion that Murray realised that the British
Army had tampered with the forensics by opening
sealed forensic bags and contaminating the contents,
and that he was now being asked to submit a false
forensic report on me. Not happy with this, Murray
has left a paper trail, which was discovered by
Aiden Carlin. Aiden picked up the hint and this
was the first thing he went to when he opened the
folder. Fortunately, he ignored the instruction
and opened the envelope. He then began to copy the
I spoke with Aiden Carlin he confirmed what Brogan
had said. After the meeting Gerry Murray had indeed
handed Carlin the case file containing the brown envelope.
And while it carried on its exterior a directive that
it should remain unopened, the legal rep felt legally
obligated to unseal it in the interests of disclosure
because the number of the case file of Brogan and
Carroll, '4981/02', was clearly stamped on it. For
those who remembered the Guildford four case, only
by opening such an envelope was the solicitor Gareth
Pierce able to establish the withholding of evidence
vital to the defence, and which ultimately led to
the acquittal of all those who had been wrongly and
malignly convicted. One of the items copied by Carlin
was a memo from Gordon McMillan, a senior forensic
officer, to all forensic staff claiming that:
25 Nov I sent a message to business managers informing
them that an army search organisation had been involved
in the examination of items in relation to case
4981/02, that had not yet been delivered to the
laboratory. This examination involved them opening
bags in the exhibits room of Newry Police Station
and rubbing a gloved hand over the surfaces of the
contents, in this case items of clothing.
item assiduously transcribed by Carlin was a letter
from Gerry Murray which stated:
19/06/03 at 15.00 hours I met Detective Chief Inspector
Derek Williamson PSNI, Ardmore, Newry, at FSNI to
discuss my statement of 8/4/03 in relation to case
number 4891/02. Detective Chief Inspector Derek
Williamson requested that I prepare a modified statement,
omitting a number of sections from the original
statement. He provided me with a copy of my original
statement with the relevant sections highlighted.
also found a fax from Detective Williamson to Mr McMillan,
a senior scientific manager, which clearly shows the
lengths to which the senior PSNI member was willing
to go in his bid to manipulate the evidence. The fax
outlined the circumstances of Brogan and Carroll's
arrest. It described Brogan as 'a very senior member
of the Real IRA.' The fax further claimed that the
case was 'highly significant and serious in nature.'
What possible inference were the forensic investigators
to draw from this other than a negative view of the
accused? Williamson was clearly trying to steer the
forensic investigation away from any semblance of
legality, contaminating the 'neutrality' of science
to his credit, added that he was submitting both the
true report and the altered one
Brogan's legal team felt it had uncovered something
seriously deficient in the police approach to the
case it was to soon realise that what had been stumbled
on was just the tip of the iceberg. According to Aiden
Carlin he discovered evidence that was even more damning
not only of the police and army but also of the office
of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
weeks after the initial visit to the Carrickfergus
forensic office I made a further trip, this time
in the company of an independent forensic expert,
John Gillespie, from Keith Borer Consultants. The
whole security procedure had changed in the time
that had elapsed since my previous visit. Furthermore,
when I opened the case file the brown envelope was
missing. But a memo from Gerry Murray, dated the
day of my first visit, stated that he had removed
the envelope on the direction of Glen Irwin of the
DPP. Irwin's reasoning was that the envelope did
not pertain to the case of Brogan and Carroll. But
this was blatantly false as their case number was
on the envelope.
end of that meeting Aiden Carlin asked Murray for
the memo from Gordon McMillan regarding the army search
team. Murray said that the army search organisation
at Ardmore had interfered with protocol but would
volunteer no more. Gillespie commented to Carroll
after the meeting that although he had met Murray
many times he had appeared very on edge on this occasion.
Gillespie in his report said that while there may
have been forensic traces on Brogan they did not link
him to any bomb. There was no forensic on Carroll
at all. He ultimately obtained bail and in November
last year both he and Brogan were acquitted. This
was only after their legal team made an application
to the high court for full disclosure, forcing the
prosecution to cut its losses and run. No evidence
was offered against either man and Lord Justice McCollum
found them both not guilty.
week prior to the acquittal I went to the courthouse
and spoke with Martin Brogan's wife Oonagh. She was
clearly resentful at the injustice in the case and
spoke of the burden her family had been placed under
as a result of the falsification of evidence. She
had been left at home with six children aged 7-14,
one of whom had autism and epilepsy. While the public
focus is often on the prisoner who is a victim of
state corruption, the family of the person imprisoned
is left to suffer anonymously, regarded for the most
part as inconsequential and incidental to the sordid
business that visited such a predicament on them.
the wake of the acquittal, Newry Council voted 19-4
in favour of writing to the police ombudsman, Nuala
O'Loan, in response to Sinn Fein's Martin Cunningham
having raised concerns. He pointed out that there
was a plot involving the PSNI, the DPP and the British
Army to manufacture evidence against the two arrested
men. 'There has been a sinister plot to fabricate
and alter evidence and I have no doubt it was done
with the blessing of those in the highest echelons
of the security forces.' Martin Brogan, however, insists
that up until the men's acquittal Davy Hyland was
the only Sinn Fein councillor showing any interest
in this case at all. 'The other Sinn Fein councillors
did not want to know. They know me and dislike the
fact that I have spoken out against them since they
have become state republicans.'
this is a narrative about systemic malpractice that
goes to the heart of policing and prosecution procedures
in the North of Ireland. It is about the employment
of agents and the continuous cover-ups employed to
protect them while they walk free to stalk the streets
despite clearly being in possession of bombs while
others against whom not one shred of evidence is eventually
offered, are held in prison. It seems that the only
thing that really changes in these matters is the
name of the agent. Brian Nelson, Freddie Scapatticci
or Patrick Byrne come and go but the backdrop of systemic
malpractice forges on unabated. Earlier last year,
Judge Denise Kennedy stopped the trial of Belfast
man William James Nelson after alleged DNA evidence
linking him to a robbery was found not to exist. This
came on the heels of Nuala O'Loan being asked to examine
a claim made by a leading forensic scientist, Ann
Irwin, that PSNI members had attempted to coerce scientists
into 'covering up' mistakes made in police investigations.
She insisted that this was a practice going back many
years. In her evidence to Lord Justice Nicholson at
the trial of Tyrone man Noel Abernathy she outlined
how the PSNI had asked her to collude in covering
up the fact that materials for forensic examination
had already been open to contamination by its failure
to implement the proper procedure for handling the
evidence. Nicholson told Abernathy, had he have been
convicted he would have went to prison for thirty
years. How many have languished in prison because
other forensic scientists kept stum?
DPP, PSNI and British Army have all colluded in falsifying
a case against two South Down men. Were it not for
the diligence of their defence team both men could
now be in the opening months of thirty-year sentences.
Are Glen Irwin of the DPP and Derek Williamson of
the PSNI along with members of the British Army search
team at Newry to be hauled before the courts accused
of perverting the course of justice? Or will the powers
that be do yet another Brian Hutton on the matter?
British efforts to suppress the Cory Report and subvert
the Barron Inquiry suggest that they shall. The RUC
is dead - long live the RUC.
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