The ongoing Omagh civil litigation has been listed for 16th April 2007 when the case is expected to finally get under way. Even at this early stage, many observers in the legal profession consider it, as being prejudiced, deeply flawed and under the present format it can only return an unfair and dishonest judgment. The British authorities have the case structured in such that it will deny the defendants any hope of defending themselves in the case.
It is expected that the unprecedented civil case will be one of the most complex litigation cases in modern times and will be watched with interest throughout the western world. During a recent preliminary hearing in September 2006, a most bizarre development unfolded which smacks of the bad old days of the Northern Ireland Diplock Courts. The complications in the case unfolded when it was revealed that at least one of the five defendants in the case will have no legal representation because the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission in Belfast have refused to grant legal aid. The defendant, Michael McKevitt has been refused legal aid and will not be represented throughout the marathon hearing.
Initially in 2002 Michael was granted legal aid to defend the case; this was later revoked in 2003 after Michael was convicted in Dublin’s non-jury Special Criminal Court on the sole word of MI5 super-grass David Rupert. One of the grounds upon which the (NILSC) revoked Michael’s legal aid was that ‘he is a man of straw’ who would be unable to meet any damaged awarded against him. Yet notwithstanding this fact, the Lord Chancellor directed that the £742,702 plus vat be awarded to sustain this futile civil action. This is just one proof that the motivation behind the civil action is accusatory and not compensatory.
Michael has a very strong defence case, which was previously outlined to the court by his lawyers at a time when he was legally aided. Even at this late stage, Michael is confident that he would successfully defend the case against him if given the opportunity of re-engaging his legal team for the hearing.
Michael’s family believe that he is being deliberately obstructed from opening aspects of the case which the British state wish to keep under wraps, fearful that exposure of specific issues would connect their agents in the Security Services to the Omagh bombing both directly and indirectly. The denial of a defence team in the civil case will protect the super-grass David Rupert from cross-examination. It will also protect MI5 from the embarrassment of cross-examination into their connections with and prior information of the bomb attack at Omagh. Without a defence team, the court will be denied sight of records, which contain details of Rupert’s previous admissions into his criminal past. Much of this information is contained in documents held by the British Security Services (MI5).
Under such circumstances, the civil case will no doubt return the desired outcome required by the British state and a section of the Omagh Victims families, who it would seem are more interested in vengeance rather than the truth. However, under those circumstances the hearing will not return a fair, balanced or truthful judgment in this case. From the outset when Michael announced that he would defend the civil case, the Courts in Belfast have placed obstacle after obstacle in his path to deny him an opportunity to defend the case. While Michael has been continually denied legal aid, the plaintiffs in the case have been granted legal assistance by every means including unlawful means.
In September 2005, the Belfast High Court granted relief in a judicial review application on behalf of Michael and declared that the British Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer had acted unlawfully when in February 2004 he directed the newly formed Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission (NILSC) to make £742,702 plus vat available to the relatives of the Omagh victims to enable them to continue with a civil claim against Michael and four others arising out of the 1998 Omagh bomb. By subsidising the Omagh civil action in this manner the British government attempted to prosecute Michael McKevitt and others using a lower civil standard of proof (on the balance of probabilities) than would be necessary in criminal proceedings (beyond reasonable doubt)
To date, throughout most of the preliminary hearings, Michael had no legal representation present in the Court, the Judge in each hearing ignored the fact that Michael was not legally represented which in itself is highly questionable. No documentation, transcripts or details of the hearings were sent to Michael, his only source of information on the hearings was through the print media.
However, Michael determined as ever made numerous written submissions from Portlaoise prison directly to Mr Justice Morgan and continually highlighted the lack of communications, the unfairness and continued lack of equality of arms in the case. Mr Justice Morgan ignored Michael’s dilemma without even a reply. In October 2006 the Judge was contacted about the lack of communication and unfairness by a Human Rights organisation who had been monitoring Michael’s case for a number of years. Mr Justice Morgan seemed embarrassed by the whole affair and indicated that Michael did not receive any details of the preliminary hearings due to a clerical error. No doubt a hint of the old Diplock Court days surfacing.
Subsequent to the letter from the Human Rights organisation Mr Justice Morgan contacted Michael by letter and informed him that he may consider recommending legal aid if Michael provided him an outline of the defence which he proposes to use in the case. Michael replied to the letter and repeated what he had previously stated in his communications to the Judge, that he wasn’t in a position to do this without legal advice. He also pointed out that he had no legal experience to compile documentation for the court.
However, the mask slipped and the prejudice from the Judge became apparent. Michael’s solicitors (K.Winter’s & Co Belfast) had already submitted an outline of the defence case to the Court while they been on record between 2002 and 2003. Mr Justice Morgan should have been aware that the defence lawyers in the case had already met with the defence requirements in the case. Michael had been conscious that in civil law all parties should be aware in advance of the cases to be made by each party. However, it seemed that the Judge was not satisfied that the defence had already complied with their obligations, he required further defence details which was outside of the normal requirements.
To date, Mr Justice Morgan has deliberately denied Michael the very basic expectations during the preliminaries of this case. He has also been denied adequate time to prepare a defence for the case and when the case itself gets under way he may have no legal representation present in the Court. By his actions, it would certainly seem that Mr Justice Morgan is complicit in denying Michael his basic fundamental right to have legal representation or a fair and balanced hearing. Judging by his involvement in the case to date it seems that Mr Justice Morgan is unable to fulfil a proper independent and impartial role in this case.
Mr Justice Morgan cannot distance himself from this denial of the very basic rights and he is solely responsible for allowing this illegality to have happened throughout the preliminaries in this case to date. By his actions Mr Justice Morgan has already prejudiced himself in this case and he should remove himself from the case without delay.
In any normal case of law, civil or otherwise the presiding Judge is duty bound to ensure all legal requirements and standards are adhered to and that the defendant is treated fair and equal manner throughout. In this case, Mr Justice Morgan has not met his obligations and should resign forthwith.