There is growing disquiet in the North’s legal world over the failure of the N.I. Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC to disclose to the PSNI a file he had kept containing details of a legal consultation held with the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in February, 2007 concerning allegations that his brother, Liam Adams had sexually abused his daughter, Ainé.
Mr McGrory was Gerry Adams’ solicitor at the time. He was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions in succession to Sir Alastair Fraser in November 2011.
The file was eventually disclosed by Mr McGrory but not until February 2015, eighteen months after Liam Adams was tried and convicted on charges that he had sexually abused his daughter and almost exactly eight years after the consultation had taken place. This was only days before Liam Adams began an appeal against his conviction.
The senior Crown counsel involved in the case then ‘advised’ the PSNI to question Mr McGrory about what he knew about Gerry Adams’ knowledge of the abuse allegations. He could have ‘instructed’ the PSNI to do this but chose to ‘advise’ instead.
The PSNI chose not to follow this ‘advice’. Had they been ‘instructed’ to question him, they would have had no choice and Northern Ireland would have witnessed, albeit second hand, the spectacle of the Director of Public Prosecutions being questioned by police about allegations that he may have withheld evidence about a crime involving the most famous IRA-linked family in Ireland.
Instead, Mr McGrory’s response came in an unsigned statement on two A4 size sheets of paper which Mr McGrory’s solicitor sent to the Public Prosecution Service – which is headed by Mr McGrory, but who had recused himself from the Liam Adams’ case.
The contents of that explanation, which were passed on to the Liam Adams’ legal team, cannot be revealed because of a condition attached to its disclosure which said that it could only be used or revealed in legal proceedings.
Others present at the consultation were another Adams’ brother, Patrick, better known as Paddy Adams – who is a former Belfast Commander of the IRA – and the Sinn Fein president’s personal aide and press officer, Richard McAuley. Paddy Adams was a member of an IRA firing party at the funeral of hunger striker Joe McDonnell in 1981; he was shot and wounded and arrested by British troops.
The consultation took place just after Liam Adams had been arrested – on February 15th, 2007 – and questioned by PSNI detectives. Liam Adams’ daughter, Ainé had just revived a complaint she had first lodged in 1987, but had then withdrawn, and his arrest was leaked, apparently by the police, to The Sunday World newspaper. Liam Adams was not named in the report which instead referred to the arrest of a relative of a high-ranking republican.
Six years later, Aine Adams told The Belfast Telegraph that in 2007, Gerry Adams attempted to persuade her to seek a court injunction which would ban publicity about the scandal:
“He frantically phoned me about twenty times”, she told the newspaper, when he heard about the planned story. “He said he needed to make sure it didn’t get into the press to protect me. Looking back, he was buttering me up.”
According to sources familiar with the file, it also describes how Mr McGrory agreed to arrange a meeting between then PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, Peter Sheridon and Gerry Adams.
Allegedly, the document – or ‘minute’, as it is officially described – details that Mr Sheridan agreed to meet Mr Adams before he gave a statement in June 2007 to PSNI detectives investigating claims from Ainé Adams that she had been sexually assaulted by her father as a young child.
Contacted for comment by thebrokenelbow.com, Mr Sheridan, who quit the PSNI in 2008 and now heads Co-operation Ireland, said that he had “no recollection” of meeting Gerry Adams.:
“I would have had no reason to, I was not part of the investigation team”, he said.
Contrary to what the ‘Gerry Adams’ file says, Mr Sheridan maintains that the leak about Liam Adams’ arrest did not come from the PSNI but from the republican community.
The question of Gerry Adams’ 2007 statement to the PSNI would later assume special significance, for in that statement he made no mention of any admission to him from Liam Adams that he had sexually abused his daughter Ainé.
However, eighteen months later, in 2009, he remembered that Liam had made an admission, allegedly during ‘a walk in the rain in Dundalk’, and included this in a fresh statement made to the PSNI.
He gave that statement a few weeks before being interviewed for a UTV documentary during which both Ainé and her mother claimed they had told Gerry Adams all about the sexual abuse. That led Liam Adams’ barrister, Eilis McDermott QC to accuse him of remembering the incident, ‘to save his political skin’.
Barra McGrory’s failure to hand over the 2007 file meant that the PSNI were not able to interview possibly important witnesses, including Paddy Adams, Richard McAuley and Peter Sheridan, about Gerry Adams’ knowledge of the sexual abuse allegations at that time. Nor was Liam Adams’ legal team able to question them in court.
The file, marked ‘Gerry Adams’, was found on Mr McGrory’s home computer. Liam Adams’ legal team had, before the first trial in April 2013, made a third party disclosure application for all relevant files kept by Mr McGrory’s then legal firm, PJ McGrory & Co dealing with Gerry Adams and the child sexual abuse allegations against Liam Adams.
His father, the late Paddy McGrory, had founded the firm and was one of the North’s ablest and best known criminal lawyers. He also was Gerry Adams’ lawyer and Barra McGrory inherited the SF leader as a client, along with other prominent republicans – Bobby Storey was one – when his father died. (Full disclosure: he was also a friend of this writer and is dearly missed.)
The ‘Gerry Adams’ file was not amongst the documents handed over. The questions thus arise: was the file ever on the PJ McGrory computer system and if so, how and when did it make its way to Mr McGrory’s home computer?
A letter from the Public Prosecution Service to Liam Adams’ lawyers in February 15th, 2015, claimed that the minute:
“….only came to light last month when he was tidying up data stored on different computers held by him. This minute was contained in a folder relating to Gerard Adams. Mr McGrory was completely unaware of the minute when he made his police statement in connection with the trial of Liam Adams.”
The first trial of Liam Adams in April 2013 collapsed when it emerged that the trial judge, Corinne Philpott had neglected to hand over a prosecution file to the defence team. A second trial was held in September 2013 and in October, Liam Adams was found guilty on ten counts of sexual abuse.
His lawyers then launched an appeal which began on 25th March 2015. A month or so before the appeal began the Public Prosecution Service handed over to them the ‘Gerry Adams’ file discovered on Barra McGrory’s computer.
By this stage the file was of little use to Liam Adams’ lawyers. Not only had the first trial collapsed but Gerry Adams had been withdrawn from the witness list for the second trial after the defence had threatened to make a ‘bad character evidence’ application.
This meant that the defence was not able to summon Mr McGrory as a witness during the second trial and ask him about significant discrepancies between the undisclosed ‘Gerry Adams’ file and the statement he gave PSNI detectives. Nor were they able to call Paddy Adams, Richard McAuley or Peter Sheridan of the PSNI.
Because Gerry Adams did not figure in the trial, his dealings with Barra McGrory, his lawyer, also could not figure in the appeal.
According to sources familiar with both documents there is no reference at all in Mr McGrory’s 2012 PSNI statement to the consultation he had with Gerry Adams. In fact the two accounts are impossible to reconcile.
Said one source who has seen the recently rediscovered ‘Gerry Adams’ document:
In the ‘Gerry Adams’ document, Barra McGrory states that he had a consultation with Gerry Adams MP, who was accompanied by Patrick Adams and Richard McAuley in his office in February 2007. They discussed the case and the leaking of information to the press by the PSNI. Barra McGrory then contacted ACC Peter Sheridon who agreed that there had been a leak to the press by the PSNI and he said he would meet Gerry Adams voluntarily, before he made any statement to the PSNI.
In contrast, Mr McGrory’s statement to the PSNI, made on August 28th, 2012, reads in part:
Sometime in May or June 2007, I was contacted by the police and was informed they were seeking Gerry Adams’ co-operation in an investigation….I duly contacted Gerry Adams and arranged to consult. A consultation took place. I do not have a minute or record of that consultation….Following this consultation I contacted police and facilitated a meeting between them and Gerry Adams during which time he gave them a statement. I was present on June 20th, 2007 when that statement was made. The only notes I have to my involvement in this matter are those already disclosed consisting of 2 separate pages. The first note headed ‘meeting 1987’ was a consultation note I made during the interview with Constable Corrigan and Cartmill. The second note beginning ‘calls to Insp Black and Ivan Anderson…’ was made in 2009 after I was requested by Gerry Adams to ascertain who was now in charge of the investigation.
Mr McGrory’s failure to disclose the February 2007 statement to the PSNI is now the subject of a complaint lodged with the Northern Ireland Bar Council, alleging that the Director of Public Prosecutions broke the barristers’ code of conduct.
The complaint was lodged by Liam Adams’ wife, Brona Adams. A spokeperson for the Bar Council’s Professional Conduct Committee confirmed that the complaint had been received and is being considered:
“…however no decision or determination has yet been made”, she added.
Liam Adams’ solicitor, Philip Breen has also written to the chairman of the Stormont Justice Committee, which recently questioned Mr McGrory at a public hearing, taking issue with comments made by the DPP in relation to his handling of the Liam Adams case.
He told the chairman, Alastair Ross that a claim made to the committee by Mr McGrory that he was ‘of no value’ to Liam Adams’ defence team who had chosen not to call him as a witness was incorrect. “This is simply not the case”, he wrote.
We still sought to interview Mr McGrory ourselves and it was only after the Public Prosecution Service informed the Court that they were no longer relying on Mr Gerry Adams as a witness in the Trial of our client that the pursuit of Mr McGrory ceased.
However please note that if the Defence had been informed at the time that Senior Crown Counsel had advised that police should take a statement from Mr McGrory we certainly would not have given up our pursuit of trying to interview him ourselves or indeed calling him as a witness.
Alastair Ross has failed to respond to invitations to comment from thebrokenelbow.com.