The next two posts will deal with my experiences with the Public Prosecution Service.
However, I wish to deal briefly with another matter which was broadcast on Tuesday 21st July 2018 on BBC Newsline and followed up the following day by the Belfast Telegraph. The story concerned the road death of two young children from County Fermanagh some ten years ago, the Police handling of the case, and the families’ attempt to seek closure. Their struggle over those ten years is a reflection in many ways of my own journey over the past 15 years to do likewise. I wish them a successful outcome and I hope they are spared fewer false dawns than I have had to endure. They should be aware by now that inordinate procrastination is a well used technique by the Justice System to bury their search for the truth.
I wish to comment on just one aspect of the Report on the BBC and the Belfast Telegraph. The PSNI, probably through their Press Office, issued a statement from Chief Superintendent David Moore which said :-
“We accept that there were clear failings in the investigation. It will be of no comfort to the families but improvements have since been introduced and we now have a dedicated specialist team to investigate fatal RTCs(Road Traffic Collisions), who support district officers. We will reflect on the verdict made today and determine if further work needs to be done in this area.”
The Florencecourt crash happened on “7th November 2008.
In the Antrim Guardian published on 25th April 2007, Inspector Ian White, who has cropped up several times in this blog for his recurring abuse of the truth, said :-
“Senior Investigating Officers( of whom he is one) are appointed by the PSNI to manage and oversee all serious crashes in Northern Ireland, and have been trained to lead investigations into road incidents, while providing focus and motivation for the investigative team. one hundred and eighty SIOs are currently at work in Northern Ireland.”
The two statements conflict with one another.
Why was one of the these 180 trained experts not sent to the collision in County Fermanagh ?
Why did the trained SIO Inspector Ian White not properly supervise the collision involving my brother and felt the need to resort to lying and endorsing false evidence from Sgt McBride ?
Why did the current Chief Constable appoint a long retired and unskilled ex Inspector Kennedy to re-investigate my case when he had so many trained experts to hand ? At least they might have stood a chance to finding the truth of the collision.
I will now return to my dealings with the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland was established in June 2005 and replaced the old Director of Public Prosecutions when the local Justice System was overhauled in around 2000. It was responsible for the consideration and prosecution of all criminal cases in Northern Ireland and so far as I knew it could call for further investigation of a case should it decided that there may be sufficient evidence to process a case through the courts.
It was clear to me that all my efforts to have the case properly investigated had come to nought and there was no likelihood that the Police Report would be amended in any way. An appeal directly to Chief Constable Orde had proved futile and all other avenues were now closed.
My submission to the PPS was in 2007, long befor the letter of apology by the Ombudsman or the correction of the initial Collision Report after Kennedy’s findings. It was prompted by Chief Constable Hugh Orde’s sniffy disinterest in mysubmission to him.
As far as I was concerned there was ample evidence to consider that Carson had caused the death of my brother by dangerous driving. He had reversed tyres on his car, there was evidence that he was using his mobile at the time of the collision and he was greatly exceeding the speed limit. There was also convincing evidence that he was not wearing a seatbelt and, although that would not have contributed to the crash, that was a criminal offence. As a result I asked PPS to consider a charge of Death by Dangerous Driving against Mr Carson.
Sgt McBride refused to change his Report even though he admitted the errors to the Ombudsman. By refusing to change his Report I believed him to be guilty of perverting the Course of Justice.
The correspondence indicated that he was being advised by (or conspiring with) his senior officer Inspector White, but I did not include him in the list of names to be considered for prosecution. I should have done. In many ways he was even more culpable because he was senior, and in overall charge of the investigation.
I had thought of including the Forensic Officer Mr Coll but he had come to the case late, the Subaru was not available to him for inspection, and he had relied on a Police Report and its conclusion which was flawed.
The Chief Constable was made aware of what was going on but did nothing to correct it so, in my opinion, he could be guilty of the same offence. In any case he believed he was personaly responsible for his officer’s actions.
The Public Prosecution Service could decide who was guity of what according to the evidence.
I wasn’t sure that I had the right to make a submission to the PPS as a civilian and so I phoned them and asked. A staff member wasn’t sure if I could, but she called back a couple of days later and said that there was no reason why it wasn’t possible. It seemed that it wasn’t an everyday occurrence. Since it was my right to make a submission, I expected that it would afforded the same standing as a submission from the Police. I still believed in theJustice System is those early days!
Over several weeks, I prepared a bound folder which contained some 120 pages of evidence and background correspondence including all the Collision and Ombudsman Reports. Separately I included copies of photographs and maps.
In a separate bound folder, I detailed the case and listed the evidence that I was submitting to justify each charge to be considered. Evidence was stated and its location in the supporting evidence folder cross referenced.
It was a laborious task but I felt it had to be done as a last-ditch attempt to get some sort of justice for my brother’s family. None of the Justice agencies was prepared to do anything. I had it completed by the end of May 2007 to be delivered to the PPS on 1st June, the deadline set by me for action by the Chief Constable. I also prepared a letter for each of the accused to inform them of the submission and a letter to the Coroner, the Police and the Ombudsman advising them of my intentions.
I also prepared a Press Release which would be sent to the local papers. Acting as a good compliant citizen led only to delay and inaction. I thought it was time to take the kid gloves off.
I had intended to deliver what was a bulky set of documents personally by hand, however a close friend offered to leave it in to the PPS Headquarters in Belfast on his way to work on 30th May 2007. His office was close by. I agreed and when he called at PPS reception, a female Police Liaison Officer took it from him and said she would make sure it got into the right hands. After maybe two weeks the receipt of the document was still not acknowledged and so I phoned up and asked if it had been properly received. They had no knowledge of it and later a thorough search of all the offices by one of the PPS staff confirmed that it couldn’t be found. I was asked to re-submit it and this time to send it to the Ballymena Chambers. It was an avoidable chore but I did so and sent it recorded delivery. The first copy turned up on 28th June some four weeks later and was returned to me. I wasn’t told what had happened to it even though I asked. I had my own thoughts. I had a subsequent occasion when another but different evidence parcel was removed from the post and was never delivered. I can’t be sure who removed either of them but I can say that the Police had easy access to both and would have certainly benefitted by a early sight of both contents – but that is not evidence.
The Ombudsman’s investigator, Mr Meehan, then decided that he would bring in an experienced Accident Investigator from England, Mr Kane, to review the case, and so I wrote to the PPS to take no further action until the outcome of that review was known. That review was held on 25th July.
The details and outcome of that meeting were detailed in my post “PONI’s Second Attempt” on 23rd July 2018 .
I followed up with a letter to the PPS, giving him a briefing of what went on at the meeting with Mr Kane and said that I had yet to receive a letter, which had been promised, detailing Mr Kane’s findings. He had told me that it would be ready in the following two weeks and had asked me to inform the PPS of this. Mr Meehan and Mr Kane were prepared to liaise with the PPS directly if they so wished.
The letter from Mr Kane didn’t arrive and, although I was assured it would arrive soon after Mr Kane returned from leave on 26th August, I wrote to the PPS and said that they should press ahead if it still hadn’t arrived shortly after that time. Mr Kane telephoned me on 31 August to say that he had written the letter, that it had been discussed at the “highest” management level and passed to the legal team for their view.
I wrote to the PPS: “I have concluded that the Ombudsman will be unable to find a wording that will both accurately reflect Mr Kane’s views and yet avoid the Ombudsman’s Office being shot in the foot, so I ask you to proceed without waiting sight of any possible letter from that Office.”
I was right. The letter wasn’t produced for another three years and four months. Their legal team stated that it was not part of the Ombudsman’s writ to comment on the merit of evidence!
The second part of this story will form part of the next post.