The body which polices members of the bar in Northern Ireland has asked the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory to formally respond to allegations that his handling of the record of a consultation he held with Gerry Adams in 2007 concerning allegations that his brother Liam, had sexually abused his daughter Ainé, hindered the due process of law and infringed Liam Adams’ right to a fair trial.
Liam Adams was found guilty in October 2013 of ten offences relating to the abuse of his daughter which started when she was four years old and lasted, his trial was told, for six years. He was sentenced to sixteen years in jail and in May last year lost an appeal.
The Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) of the Northern Ireland Bar Council recently informed Liam Adams’ wife Brona that after a meeting on January 12th, the committee had ‘directed that Mr McGrory’s response to further queries be sought.’
The message from the committee’s secretary went on:
‘This process is now in hand and I will update you following the next meeting on Tuesday, 9th February, 2016.’
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on the the other hand, has stood firmly by its boss, who recused himself from the Liam Adams’ prosecution because he had been Gerry Adams’ solicitor.
A letter to Liam Adams’ lawyers, dated December 18th, 2015 dismissed the complaint on two grounds. One was that it was essentially irrelevant since Gerry Adams did not appear as a witness at Liam Adams’ appeal; the second was that the Barra McGrory record was handed over to defence lawyers four weeks before the hearing.
However, the PPS did not address part of the Liam Adams’ complaint which potentially raises the most problematic questions. This was the failure of the prosecution service to take the advice of a senior prosecution counsel that Mr McGrory should be interviewed by the PSNI about inconsistencies in his behaviour.
One of the matters that the PSNI could have been expected to probe was why the record of the 2007 consultation was not handed over when a third party disclosure application was granted at the outset of legal proceedings against Liam Adams.
Another is why, in a statement he gave to the PSNI in August 2012, he said: ‘I do not have a minute or record of that consultation (with Gerry Adams)’, when clearly he had.
The record of the consultation with Gerry Adams in 2007 was discovered by Barra McGrory in a file marked ‘Gerry Adams’ on a computer he kept at home. It was found just before Liam Adams’ appeal against his conviction, which means it had gone undiscovered through virtually the entire legal proceedings against the SF leader’s brother.
A number of questions follow which the PSNI could have been expected to put to the DPP: why was the file not on a computer in his law firm, as presumably it should have been? Why was it on Barra McGrory’s home computer? Who put it there? Had it been transferred from an office computer and if so, when and why?
But the PSNI never put the questions to him because the PPS failed to instruct them to so do.
The complaint against Barra McGrory, which claims he broke the barristers’ Professional Code of Conduct, revolves around a record of a consultation the future DPP held with Gerry Adams in February 2007 which followed the arrest of Liam Adams after his daughter had just revived a complaint against her father she had first lodged in 1987 but had then dropped.
A report appeared in The Sunday World newspaper saying that the relative of a senior republican in Belfast had been arrested on suspicion of assaulting his daughter and that apparently sparked the consultation.
The subsequent meeting with Barra McGrory involved not just Gerry Adams but his brother Patrick, known as Paddy, as well as Gerry Adams’ longtime press aide cum factotum Richard McAuley.
The record of the consultation was eventually disclosed to Liam Adams’ defence but on condition that it be kept secret and only disclosed if there were legal proceedings which warranted its public release.
However one source who has seen the rediscovered document said this about its contents, which appear not to go much beyond the basic facts:
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.
Former ACC Sheridan, who left the PSNI some years ago and now heads Co-operation Ireland, said that he had ‘no recollection’ of meeting Gerry Adams about this matter.
“I would have had no reason to, I was not part of the investigation team”, he told thebrokenelbow.com.
In his statement to the PSNI made in 2007 after the consultation with Barra McGrry, Gerry Adams made no mention of any admission to him from Liam Adams that he had sexually abused Ainé.
Eighteen months later, however, he remembered that Liam had made an admission, allegedly during ‘a walk in Dundalk in the rain’ and told the PSNI this in a statement. He then appeared as a prosecution witness at Liam Adams’ first trial, which was abandoned on a technicality, but not at the second trial.
Given the conflict between Gerry Adams’ 2007 statement to the PSNI and his testimony at the criminal trial the question of what was said during the consultation with Barra McGrory assumes greater import. But his prosecution service never followed the advice of its own counsel and the PSNI thus never had the chance to find out.
Key parts of the correspondence between Liam Adams’ lawyers, the PPS and Barra McGrory’s own lawyers concerning the 2007 consultation are set out below: