I have to admit that I have paid only passing attention to the case of the Craigavon Two – Brendan McConville and John-Paul Wooton – whose supporters say were framed for the Continuity IRA killing of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009.
I have not investigated the background to the case or the competing claims concerning their guilt or innocence because, I suppose, these types of cases cannot really be investigated properly unless you are on the ground and can look into peoples’ eyes, so to speak. And I am not on the ground these days.
But there is a simple litmus test, at least in my experience gained covering other cases like Guildford & Birmingham, that should be applied to such claims and it is this: when someone insists on their innocence and keeps on doing so, year in, year out, in good weather and bad, and especially when everything seems hopeless and no-one is paying attention, the chances that they are indeed innocent are usually very strong.
Guilty people may initially make such a claim but it fades and disappears with time because ultimately it is anger at injustice that fuels such campaigns and guilty people cannot sustain anger if it is a bogus emotion.
A truly innocent person has enough anger at their being framed to keep going forever, even to climb onto a prison canteen roof in the middle of winter to proclaim their innocence and the awful injustice done to themselves.
A guilty person will inevitably adjust themselves to their new, unwelcome circumstances and settle down to serve their time.
Brendan McConville and John-Paul Wooton are now entering the sixth year of their own campaign and I think that qualifies for inclusion in the category of angry campaigners that I describe above. It is time, I suggest, for a long, hard look at the case both by the media and civil libertarians.
Goodness knows, we had enough miscarriages of justice during the Troubles; do we really want to start over again?
You can obtain more information about the case and contact their supporters at this website.
The letter below is from Belfast lawyer and human rights and trade union activist, Ciaran Mulholland who, inter alia, highlights what he says were police and prosecutorial abuses in the investigation and trial of the men:
Making a Murder – Craigavon Style
The hype of the Netflix series ‘Making A Murder’ regarding the systemic flaws of the convictions against Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey raise many similarities to the case of Craigavon men, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton who were convicted of the murder of Constable Steven Carroll in 2009.
It is shocking the impact of a professionally well produced documentary-drama can have on the public audience. Globally people are debating and campaigning regarding the abuses of the Manitowoc County Sherriff Department, their prosecutorial system and the Wisconsin State in general. There has even been a petition to President Obama for a pardon given the unsafe convictions and how they were gained.
Meanwhile there continues to be an appeasement of a dreadful miscarriage of justice in our own country. One that involves fundamental abuses of police powers, the destruction of evidence, the use of an infamous ‘Walter-Mitty’ witness, dubious informants, attempts to conceal evidence by Crown experts, the exploitation of Public Interest Immunity Orders, selective discovery, the denial of a jury and the sabotage of an appeal, to name but a few issues!
I believe everyone accused of a crime should be entitled to the presumption of innocence, irrespective of the crime and the beliefs of the defendant. There is also the necessity for the prosecution to act with integrity and present a case fairly, regardless of the Police or Security Services agendas. This was certainly not the case in the trial and appeals of the Craigavon Two. These two men are wrongfully serving life sentences and I encourage all to study the facts of this case.
“To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it” – Justice for the Craigavon Two.