After a twenty one year campaign to prove his innocence, March 2011 Christy Walsh is putting the British legal system on trial in a case to be heard in Court in Belfast. Already proven “not guilty” on his third Appeal in 2011, but deemed “not proven innocent”, Christy Walsh refused to accept that slur on his character. At the end of the Appeal, he crossed the Court Room and took a Prosecution file into his possession…
Christy Walsh, from West Belfast, was arrested 1991 for possession of coffee jar bomb. He had no paramilitary associations and no previous convictions, and was inarguably of good character. Christy was wrongly convicted in a Diplock (no jury) Court in 1992 of possessing explosives (a coffee jar bomb). He was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He served 7 years in Crumlin Road and the Maze. He was released in 1998. He has campaigned for 20 years to clear his name.
In 2000 his case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. That appeal having failed, he appealed again and in January 2002 his conviction was upheld, even though the Court acknowledged the possibility that procedural irregularities might have amounted to an interference with his right to a fair trial. 
British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW) observed, “in sixteen years of observing the conflict in Northern Ireland, (we have) never witnessed another case in which so many of the safety nets in the criminal justice system have failed to work.”
There were a number of key issues that lead to Christy Walsh’s Appeal succeeding.
Nine months after Christy had been charged with the offence, a second soldier claimed that he also had seen Christy with the device. Six years after the Trial the second soldier retracted his Trial Testimony after an investigation established it to be “inherently unlikely”. The Court of Appeal requested that the soldier appear before the Court to explain why he “changed his story”.
The Prosecutor later informed the Court that this Solder could no longer be traced and thus prevented the Court or his legal team from exploring the Soldier’s claim to having been “coached” prior to testifying at Christy’s Trial.
However, the Detective tasked to locate the soldier provided Christy’s legal team with a two page summary of how the soldier had been located. This conflicted with what the Prosecutor had told the Court.
Questions arose over the photographic evidence given to the Court at the time of the trial. A letter from the PPS denied that the photos had been withheld at the time of the trial and alleged that the Detective in charge of the case had only provided the PPS with them 18 years late.
The Prosecution Service says that there has been no impropriety. But after 18 years both Christy, and the Detective in charge of the investigation, learned that another prime suspect had been arrested at the same time as Christy, in the area where the coffee bomb was allegedly found. This man was described as a ‘top IRA man’ but was discretely released again after one day.
The Department of Justice (Northern Ireland Office NIO) now says that because the Appeal Judges did not “find (Christy Walsh) proven innocent” and because his appeal was not won on the basis of new evidence he is not entitled to compensation:
Under section 133 compensation is payable to an applicant where his “conviction has been
reversed or he has been pardoned on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows
beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a miscarriage of justice”. Mr Walsh’s convictions were, we believe, “reversed” within the meaning of section 133, by the decision of the Court of Appeal on 16 March 2010. However we believe this was not based on a new, or newly di covered, fact.
Furthermore, we also believe that, even if there were a new or newly discovered fact, Mr Walsh has so far failed to establish that such a fact has shown beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a miscarriage of justice – in the sense that he is demonstrably innocent. The Court of Appeal only indicated “a significant sense of unease” about the safety of the trial verdict; it did not acknowledge that Mr Walsh was clearly innocent.
The application therefore does not appear to meet the necessary criteria of section 133 of the
Criminal Justice Act 1988, and we believe Mr Walsh is ineligible compensation.
This places Christy Walsh in a “not proven innocent” category and is effectively viewed by him as a situation in which the NIO has passed a guilty verdict on him in the absence of the Courts. He says that this would be like any Dail Minister’s aides having the power to say this person or that one was guilty – “why have courts?”
This is only a summary of events and much is left out. It’s a long and complex history of more than 20 years of an innocent man trying to establish his good name beyond doubt and obstructed by the authorities at every turn. At the end of this blog post there are links to other articles, videos and documents that fill in some of the detail of these years of effort.
I had believed before reading about his case that a person was considered innocent until proven guilty under British law: Christy Walsh’s case seems to turn the law and civil rights upside down.
C. Flower 1.3.2011
Christy Walsh – An update on my case
A court date has been set which will consider the right to a fair trial and which will be presented with evidence of unlawful conduct within the Northern Ireland legal system.
The new evidence was obtained at the close of my appeal hearing last March, when I took one of the Prosecutor’s files before leaving the courtroom.
Copies of the evidence were passed to the Chief Constable of the NI Police Service, Sir Matt Baggott. Chief Constable Baggott concluded that a criminal investigation could be carried out if a Police Officer had been involved in concealing the evidence, but not a Crown Prosecutor.
The matter was then passed to the NI Courts. Mr Justice Weatherup who will be dealing with this case has directed that “the Dept of Justice, the Chief Constable and the NIHRC should all appear as respondents and the PPS should be put on notice of the application. The case may be regarded as a criminal cause or matter that requires two Judges.”
The case will be heard on Monday 7th March 2011.
A significant portion of the case revolves around unchartered waters.
Judicial Reviews are usually only heard by one Judge and probably the majority of cases are civil actions (there will be two judges hearing the application). The case specifically relates to the Right to a Fair Trial –which I have never had –and beyond the unfairness of the Trial my conviction was, in law, an ‘unlawful conviction’ (which should equate to unlawful detention).
The Court has directed that “The case may be regarded as a criminal cause” –this is because the evidence suggests that the Prosecutor had fabricated the whole case as a ‘malicious prosecution’ (illegal detention from day one).
While the last Court of Appeal stated that a ‘top IRA man’ arrested on the same day as me was only arrested about 1 hour after my arrest; most documentation times this man’s arrest at 1:35pm (which is 15 minutes before I arrive at the scene). This man was taken away in an unmarked car –I have never seen an arrest made like that in west Belfast, ever. So possibly there had been some kind of undercover operation involved? I have a new forensic document which states that the device was originally recovered from this man’s home a little further up the Suffolk Road from the scene? [NOTE: It should be kept in mind that this man may well have been just as innocent as myself –nor might their be any basis to the claim that he was a “top IRA man”.] I simply do not know.
The big question is, will the Court order a criminal investigation into the Prosecutor’s conduct?
Will the Court re-instate my right to a fair trial, in which, the 2002 Court of Appeal concluded that an “exception” could be made with me. That verdict has never been specifically addressed by any Court to date. The Justice Minister, David Ford, is merely continuing a habit of violation of my Article 6 rights, and thus the case against him.
The Chief Constable owes me a duty of care and should have conducted some level of investigation based on the available evidence of serious crime having occurred.
The NIHRC have endorsed Carswell LCJ’s making an “exception” in my case by excluding me from my Convention right to a fair trial. The Commission has participated in the whole affair as a hostile silent witness. I will be seeking damages from them. (It should be remembered that the NIHRC is not a human rights NGO –it is empowered, by statute, to serve the public in the same way as any other public body, ie, social welfare, PSNI, the court services, transport dept, etc, etc…). The NIHRC operates as an academics semi-private diners’ club and has apparently spent 90% of their funding on themselves!!
There’s a short UTV video and interview here that shows the place where Christy Walsh was arrested and in which he explains what happened.
This is a BBC report on the case, with short video of Christy being interviewed – he says “There’s a common thread that the PPS is obstructing cases like Thomas Devlin’s and Robert Hamill’s and mine.”
This is Christy’s website – it gives detail of the conduct of the Prosecution and Courts.
A good thing to read first, to provide context –
UTV video shows the scene of the fit up.
“The Department of Justice say Christy has misunderstood and that there has been no impropriety. Christy asks why he wasn’t told at the time of the trial that a senior IRA man had been arrested in the area on the same day.”
This one is just about a soldier witness who couldn’t be found
BBC report on the case with short video of Christy
“There’s a common thread that the PPS is obstructing cases like Thomas Devine’s and Robert Hamill’s and mine”
Letter from the PPS denying that the photos had been withheld at the time of the trial
Department of Justice letter dated June 2010 – Christy not eligible for compensation as he won Appeal because of Judge’s “Sense of Unease” about the conviction – he was not proven innocent by new evidence.
Christy’s blog – it relates to the conduct of the prosecution and courts and is detailed.