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Adams Expresses disappointment at British Attorney General decision in Holland case

4 August, 2009 - by Pat Sheehan

Last week west Belfast MP Gerry Adams wrote to the British Attorney General Patricia Scotland, on behalf of Harry Holland’s family and raised a number of important issues, including asking her to review the sentences of the accused and refer them to the Court of Appeal.

In her reply the British Attorney General has refused to review the sentences or refer them to the Court of Appeal. She has also failed to tackle the obvious and glaring shortcomings within the Public Prosecution Service.

Mr. Adams has described the British Attorney General’s response as “inadequate and deeply disappointing for the family of Harry Holland and for the west Belfast community. The family and the community are justifiably angry at the sordid secret deal that was done between the Public Prosecution Service and those who carried out the murder which led to reduced charges and minimum sentences against two of the accused.”

The west Belfast MP said that he and the family will meet again to examine this decision and what next steps are open to the family.

He has asked for an early meeting with the British Attorney General to discuss all of the implications of the Harry Holland case, including the widely held concerns at the role of the PPS, its failure to prosecute this case properly, the ‘horse trading’ that went on between the PPS and the defence representatives, the failure to keep the Holland family involved, and the judgement which interpreted the murder as surprising and spontaneous.

Mr. Adams said:

“Like the Holland family I am deeply dissatisfied with the way this case has been handled by the Public Prosecution Service.
It was the PPS which in horse trading with the defence lawyers, agreed to reduce the charges against those accused of Harry Holland’s murder.

Then it ensured that the British Attorney General’s examination of the Holland trial was limited to the sentences imposed, and not the conduct of the prosecution.

To add insult to injury the PPS has had no communication with the Holland family since the end of the court case.
This is not acceptable behaviour.

I am also concerned at the response of the British Attorney General to this case. The decision to refuse to review the sentences was taken by her after the PPS gave her the case papers and advice from an ‘independent Senior Counsel’.
This is not the independent scrutiny that the actions of the PPS required and which the British Attorney General is responsible for.

The PPS needs to change. There needs to be a root and branch examination of how prosecution cases are conducted.

The Holland case is evidence of the overwhelming need for the transfer of policing and justice powers. Only in those circumstances is there any possibility of the PPS being made accountable for its actions. It is only with justice powers in local hands will it be possible to establish a genuinely fair, effective, and transparent criminal justice system, including with a local Attorney General.

Note to Editor:

At this time because of the failure to secure the transfer of powers on policing and justice it is the British Attorney General who has the statutory power to scrutinise the conduct of the Public Prosecution Service.

This is one example of why it is so important that these powers are transferred.

The report of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate in August 2007 on the PPS identified 40 weaknesses requiring action. The biggest criticism was the continued failure to give substantive reasons for the failure to prosecute in cases.

The Chief Inspector, Kit Chivers, when describing the PPS, said that adversarial attitudes had become ingrained from the decades of conflict. This is evident in the PPS reaction and response to the Holland family, including its failure to listen to their concerns or keep them informed of decisions it was taking in the case.

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