Friday 21 January 2011

Corporate Spookdom, 'plausible deniability' at the 7/7 Inquests

"The very grave danger is really as follows, entirely contrary to the interests of justice, that, as soon as any real probing questions are asked of this witness about what happened when -- which is not actually apparent and spelt out on the documents -- he or she will simply say that the witness does not know."

Patrick O'Connor, QC - 7/7 Inquests 21/01/2011
An order for anonymity was granted to 'Witness G' by Lady Justice Hallet on 21st January 2011. He or she (although probably a 'she' judging by Hugo Keith's opening statement when he made reference to a 'she' page 1: 17 ) will not be named and will be screened from the press and public.

'Witness G' will be appearing for the Security Service, MI5, as a 'corporate witness' to give evidence around the issue of 'Preventability', the issue that so vexes the bereaved families and survivors. J7: The July 7th Truth Campaign's questions and issues around 'Preventability' are included in this detailed submission placed before the 7/7 Inquests back in July 2010.

Mr Hall, counsel for the Security Services, described 'Witness G' and his/her exceptional requirement for anonymity and screening - that would bar even the families from seeing this witness - in the following terms:
... a senior member of the Security Service with approximately 20 years' service. As a member of the Security Service, he represents an organisation which is uniquely identified with countering the terrorist threat, and he is therefore, as are all members of the Security Service, subject to particular threat personally and, as a senior member, may be an attractive target to a terrorist organisation, if identified.

None of the bereaved families nor the press had objected to anonymity for 'Witness G', what the families did object to was the need to screen him/her from them. Mr Hall conjured up the following bizarre scenarios to make his case for the need for 'Witness G' to be hidden from them:
Can I give you two examples? Firstly, a properly interested person recognises Witness G on a train, for example. They are both travelling on the same train together, and either advertently, or -- and this is a particular risk which, with respect, your Ladyship hasn't considered -- inadvertently, gives away who he is. Another person who regularly travels on the same train as Witness G and is of either hostile intent or has hostile intentions, overhears.

The second possibility is, if Witness G is deployed in a covert role against security-hardened and hostile targets. Again, a properly interested person, advertently, or inadvertently, gives away either who Witness G is, or that they recognise Witness G, and that allows the target to become aware either that Witness G is a member of the Security Service, or that he is not the person he is covertly deployed as. [ibid p12:4]
The brilliant Patrick O'Connor QC. representing many of the bereaved families, tore Mr Hall's arguments to shreds:
"Now, what we know about Witness G from his or her -- I must say for a long time I was saying "him", but we don't know -- Witness G's statement about his or her experience is as follows, and this is highly relevant to the assessment of risk: that he or she has been a member of the Security Service since 1991. Most significantly, for these purposes, since late 2005 -- so for the last five years -- has been the Chief of Staff for the Director General, giving policy advice, and being involved with the management of important strategic plans of important strategic significance. Now, not an unreasonable inference that Witness G has plainly been in Thames House for the vast majority or his or her time over the last five years and, since late 2000 -- so we are now covering back ten years -- between late 2000 and early 2004, certainly was a manager in the section dealing with international terrorism, though significantly not Islamist terrorism, and international terrorism, by the way, excludes Northern Ireland.

Now, we respectfully submit, therefore, that the possibility, which has been ventilated, of this witness being deployed in a covert role on the Falls Road or in the bandit country of south Armagh is, frankly, unrealistic. This is a witness who has moved beyond direct operational involvement where he may be recognised by targets or those hostile to him, whilst engaged in his or her work. Now, it may be there is more and contrary information in the closed material placed before you, but we submit that, on what we know, it really doesn't reflect very well on the reality of the submissions made in support of this application that possibilities should be conjured up which are as unreal as that.

Now, that's the position of Witness G and, my Lady, two further aspects of his or her personal situation. Again, the possibility that the witness may be recognised whilst commuting has been raised. I do not know if you have any material before you to show that actually Witness G does commute by public transport. This is the failure to engage with the individual facts of the case. Does he or doesn't he? Frankly, if he commutes by bicycle, or if he commutes by car -- we will put aside chauffeur-driven car -- it's not right that these possibilities should be placed before you in theory, when actually they are contradicted by the facts."

It would be fair to assume that the State has much to fear from Patrick O'Connor QC, judging by his very distinguished legal career which includes acting on behalf of the accused in many leading 'miscarriage of justice' appeals:
  • the 'Guildford Four', for Gerry Conlon and his father, Giuseppe
  • the 'Birmingham Six'
  • the 'Carl Bridgewater' case, for Jimmy Robinson
  • the 'M 25' appeal, for Raphael Rowe
  • Andrew Evans, released after 25 years in prison for murder:
  • Robert Maynard in the 'headless torso' case from the 1970s.
In several Privy Council death penalty appeals O'Connor has acted on a pro bono basis: Stanley Abbott, in 1976, authority on duress in murder, and 'Farrington', 1996, and 'Higgs', 1999.

He has acted for the defence in many high profile political and 'terrorist' criminal trials, including the 'Bradford 12', the Orgreave miners, the Harrods bombing and in 2003, the 'Real IRA' BBC and Ealing bombings: and the first major Islamic terrorism trial, 'Operation Crevice'.

He has defended in many murder trials, and prosecuted a high profile corporate manslaughter case. He acted for the DPP in the prosecution against BNP leaders for 'incitement to racial hatred' arising out of an undercover BBC operation.

For 20 years, he has pursued actions against the police, including:
  • record damages in Rupert Taylor v CMP, 1988
  • the first damages award for police 'torture', Treadaway v CC West Midlands, 1994
  • the 2004, appeal Paul v CC Humberside, on the trial role of judge and jury
  • the 2009 appeal Clifford v CC Herts Police, overturning the findings of fact of the Trial Judge.
The machinations of the Security Services and the Home Secretary Teresa May in delaying the release of documents, attempting to have all the 'Preventability' issues heard behind closed doors, and now putting forward what is essentially a completely useless corporate witness to face, but probably not answer, the questions to which the bereaved families, survivors and the general public want answers, are certainly not lost on Patrick O'Connor QC.

In the closing minutes of Friday's open hearing, after some time-wasting by Hugo Keith (whose own legal career in representing the interests of State, wealth and power is in direct contrast to O'Connor's), O'Connor made this strong argument against 'Witness G' being called as the lone 'corporate' witness for the Security Services:
"My Lady, on the question of adequacy of Witness G, I can literally do, in two or three minutes, what our thoughts are at the moment. There is, of course, no objection to Witness G being called at all. He is a well-positioned witness to talk about systems and resources.

However, he has absolutely no history of -- absolutely no involvement in any of these investigations by way of operational involvement or supervision. Secondly, he has, it seems, a complete absence of any involvement in any kind of Islamic terrorism investigations. Again, operationally or in a supervisory capacity. That is a very striking contrast, if we may say so, with the witnesses put forward by the Metropolitan Police Service -- Mr Prunty and Mr Clark -- who could not be better positioned to talk about the relevant issues, as well as Mr Parkinson from West Yorkshire Police. Slightly different, but similarly, very well qualified. We simply are puzzled by the fact that, for instance, an obvious witness would be the actual supervising manager of the desk officers concerned in 2003 to 2005, of these particular investigations, who had hands-on experience, and can actually answer real questions beyond the documents. That supervising manager will have been responsible for all the responses to the Intelligence and Security Committee. No question. So he or she will already have been deeply and profoundly involved in an accountability exercise which happened twice and lasted over some considerable time." [p77:20]
State lackey Hugo Keith, counsel to the Inquests, had previously made it clear that this wouldn't meet with his paymasters' approval:
"I'm bound to say that we have quite substantial objections to any application to my Lady that the Security Service be directed to put up another witness, for all sorts of obvious reasons." [p76:14]
The 'obvious reasons' alluded to but not defined by Keith remain a mystery. Meanwhile, the reasons given by O'Connor for the need for a witness that actually had oversight or ran the 'intelligence' officers in this case, and who might actually be able to answer the questions posed, are plain and obvious to all who want the truth; to whatever extent the 7/7 Inquests are capable of delivering any truth.

If Lady Justice Hallet truly wants these Inquests to meet the needs of the bereaved families that O'Connor represents, and if she intends to delve beneath the surface veneer of any MI5 and intelligence 'narrative' then we hope she will heed the wise words of Patrick O'Connor:
"... we specifically raised the fear that it would be a chosen witness who actually had no experience of the relevant times and the relevant operation. We feared that because that is something that's happened in other cases involving MI5.

This has to have been a deliberate choice, and I dare say that the relevant witnesses are in Thames House now. They may be in a different role. They may be promoted, but they are there. They have already gone through a number of accountability exercises, and they would be the critical witnesses, we submit. So we express grave reservations about the choice that has been made by the Security Service."

Patrick O'Connor QC - 7/7 Inquests 21/01/2011

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