I am prompted by some confused reporting at the weekend, in particular this story in the Sunday Business Post, to make the following correction and clarification. The claim at issue in the SBP report is to the effect that because Dolours Price has died, her testimony to researchers from Boston College cannot be used in court as evidence.
One Belfast reporter, quoted in the SBP story said this: “I don’t see material evidence coming out of this. [Dolours Price] can’t be interrogated; she can’t be brought before a jury.”
Another agreed: “There is absolutely no conceivable possibility of this stuff being used in court. The witness can’t be cross-examined. I’d be very surprised if you can even get this heard in court.”
The effect of such misunderstanding of the legal situation is to minimise the potential legal and political consequences of the Boston College subpoenas and to infer unnecessary alarmism on the part of campaigners against the subpoenas.
To be fair, these reporters are not the only ones confused. The judge in the Boston District Court who first okayed the handover in 2011 made the same mistake and I have had to correct Congressional staffers who had the same inaccurate view.
The purpose of this short posting is to put the matter to rest for once and for all.
Dolours Price’s interviews can be used in court as evidence and the authority for this statement is no less than the British Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS website posting which deals with the admissibility of hearsay evidence, which is how Dolours Price’s interviews are defined, makes it abundantly clear that statements made by dead people are admissible.
Here is the link to that posting, and here is the extract which cites Section 116 of the Criminal Justice Act of 2003:
OK folks? “There is automatic admissibility of a statement made by an identifiable person that would be admissible if that person were available to give oral evidence but are unable to do so because either: The person is dead (Section 116(2)(a);” And the CPS goes on to list other categories.
The issue of the weight to be given to her interviews will be a different matter. She cannot be cross-examined and she had a history of psychiatric problems which are problems for prosecutors. But if testimony from other interviews, such as the seven currently awaiting a final legal decision, support her evidence then her interviews will carry greater weight. But admissible her interviews most certainly are.
This is not rocket science guys. It’s all on the internet.