‘Outrage against religion and public morality’

The story was a straightforward piece of reporting. John McAnulty, a haulier and grain dealer with an alleged involvement in smuggling, was abducted and killed by the IRA, suspected of giving information to police. The Sunday World article outlined what was known about his life and death, including the identities of the IRA squad behind […]

Street value

Hang around the courts for a while, as many journalists do, and you begin to notice some odd patterns. Consider these snippets from a google search of reports on drugs convictions, for example: “16.43 grammes of cocaine valued at €1150” “a kilogram of cocaine worth € 70000” “962 grammes of cocaine worth €67340” “932 grammes […]

Legal Shock

Outside, the new Criminal Courts Complex is distinctive, but not hugely original. Busáras with a facelift. Inside, it feels like a science fiction set. Something American, definitely lacking the post-industrial grime that besets most UK efforts, from 28 Days Later to Dr Who. Think of Doctor Manhattan’s laboratory in Watchmen. Or maybe the headquarters for […]

There’s Always One

The benefit of the doubt (or if you prefer, the presumption of innocence) is one of the longest established principles in the common law. At it’s most blunt, the principle is expressed in Blackstone’s formulation: “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”. Populist cheerleaders for tough policing often focus on those […]

In The Name Of The Father

Dermot Ahern is going to make cussing a crime. The minister proposes to insert a new section into the Defamation Bill, creating an criminal offence if anyone ‘publishes or utters blasphemous matter’, leading to a large fine. ‘Blasphemy is anything ‘grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing […]

Threat Level

Justice minister Dermot Ahern says membership of a criminal gang will become a scheduled offence, to be tried in the Special Criminal Court. In the last chapter of Chaos and Conspiracy, when I considered the lessons to be learned from what happened in Donegal a decade ago, I wrote this: “The Gardaí need effective oversight […]

The Accused

There’s a stairwell in the middle of the courtroom, linking the district court to the nearby Bridewell Garda station. Guards lean against the balcony as they listen to the cases. When he emerges from the tunnel, his body language defines fatigue. He moves to the bench in front of the stairwell, while lawyers shuffle papers. […]

Average Guy

I spend as lot of time covering circuit courts, so I see him every day. He left school before the Leaving, in many cases when he was as young as thirteen. He’s a heavy smoker, has been since he was in his early teens. He probably started drinking around the same time. When he drinks, […]