Ever since the arrest of Ivor Bell, I’ve been reading and hearing folks who had previously argued that no criminal prosecutions would ever come of the Belfast Project subpoenas saying that the tapes can’t or won’t aid the UK authorities in the criminal prosecution.
With apologies to readers who are interested in things other than the Belfast Project, and with a hat-tip to Chris Bray for the pointer, here is a second update in as many days. The Belfast Telegraph is reporting that the PSNI is seeking to question Anthony McIntyre, one of the lead Belfast Project researchers, in order to establish the authenticity of the Belfast Project tapes and to identify the voices heard on the tapes.
It also appears that whether the PSNI wants to interview Gerry Adams about his role, if any, in the McConville murder, Adams is making himself available to be interviewed by the police.
Because McIntyre lives in Ireland, my prediction is that we will now see litigation about the meaning of the UK/Ireland mutual legal assistance treaty as well as about the existence of an oral historian’s privilege under Irish law. Good stuff!
It is interesting, by the way, to compare the grounds for refusing an application under the UK/Ireland MLAT and the UK/US MLAT. In particular, the UK/US treaty permits the requested state to refuse an application if “the request relates to an offence that is regarded by the Requested Party as an offence of a political character.” (Art. 3(1)(c)(i)). The UK/Ireland treaty lacks a political offense exception. It does, however, have an exception where”the action sought is contrary to fundamental principles of the law of the Requested Party.” (Art. 6(1)(c)), which may be similar to the public policy exception in the UK/US treaty. And, like the UK/US treaty, he UK/Irish treaty has an exception for requests that impair the requested state’s sovereignty or security or other essential interest. The UK/Ireland treaty lacks the lengthy consultation language in the UK/US treaty that McIntyre and Ed Moloney cited, or rather mis-cited, in their lawsuit here in Boston. The Irish treaty also lacks a provision like Article 1(3) in the UK/US treaty, which provides that the treaty is solely for mutual legal assistance and does not create any private rights of action to try to impede requests, suppress or exclude evidence, etc.
In other words, the arguments about whether the MLAT should apply may differ slightly.
If you are a lawyer in Ireland or Northern Ireland and would like to be my eyes and ears for the impending proceedings, please let me know!
Ivor Bell, allegedly a senior member of the Provisional IRA in the 1970s, was arrested last week on charges of aiding and abetting the murder of Jean McConville. For those who have been following the Belfast Project case here for a while, this is interesting for a few reasons.