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How Much Does It Cost to Save a Life? - Part Three

The author is a QUB Pol Sci Honours graduate and has written extensively on imperialism, national liberation struggles and class issues.


Carrying on from When Ryan was arrested and formally asked if he had anything to say, he responded: 'I cannot understand why I am being arrested, I helped save my friend's life, he was being stabbed to death'. This truthful statement, formed the beginning of his future legal defense and his response was logged, thankfully. After the formalities of booking-in were completed, Ryan requested his solicitor be notified of his presence in Musgrave Street barracks and made it clear that he would not take part in any interrogations, without his lawyer present.

After the pretty hostile plainclothes cops relieved him of his clothing, for possible forensic examination, Ryan was given a black boilersuit, the American equivalent of a prison jumpsuit, at least three sizes too small for him. Knowing Ryan would be engaging in no meaningful conversation with these un-uniformed crime fighters, one of them leaned into his cell to inform him: "there are reports from the City Hospital that your friend has died", then slammed the cell door shut.

Ryan was obviously moved by the nocturnal detective's sensitive deliverance of such tragic news. Ryan got the distinct impression that the ghoulish little cop would have loved to have commiserated further with him, as long as the cuffs were back on, but this was Belfast pre-ceasefires and no doubt Detective Constable Compassion had a death-a-gram or two to deliver, before he returned to his lightless crypt before sun-up.


Like many who find themselves in such involuntary cellular confinement, time may move mighty slowly, but the mind races faster than a Formula1 driver. It has to be said, that the uniformed custody cops, at that point, treated Ryan fairly, didn't ask any questions about the case and supplied him with water, whenever he asked for it, via the intra-cell communication system. In fact, not being a paid up member of the RUC supporters club, Ryan was relatively shocked at how humanely the uniformed custody police treated him, considering he'd once been charged for escaping from that very RUC station, some years previously.

The cell block had some other involuntarily guests, some were vocally quite opposed to their continued detention and by the sound of things, the effects of alcohol were running in full effect. The custody cops' entire families, from wives to Grandmothers, were being cussed to high heaven, by one particular guest, when in full flow. If he had a copy of any of the cops' family trees, Ryan had no doubt their forefathers' roles in the First or Second Anglo-Afghan Wars would have been added to the free-flowing invective. Eventually, the most verbose guest ran out of alcoholic stimulus, or perhaps vocabulary but very possibly both.

Ryan described the cells as featureless, with no windows, no running water, lighting was provided by fluorescent strips secured to the ceiling and rendered fairly unbreakable by virtue of steel grills. Apart from a concrete block to lie on and so well-worn a blanket, it could have been used by John Wayne during one of his Native American genocide missions, that was the extent of the facilities' of the custody suite.


In due time, but what must have seemed an age, Ryan was taken by the uniformed custody staff to the legal consultation room to see his solicitor. No doubt about it, never was Ryan gladder to see another man! Thankfully, Ryan's solicitor, Peter, was well known as one of Belfast's premier Criminal Law defense lawyers.

It had been disclosed to Peter that Gavin remained critically ill, in Intensive Care in the hospital, while the two assailants had been released from the hospital with compound fractures, but were still in police custody. In short, the Serious Crime squad wanted to charge Ryan with Section 18 Grievious Bodily Harm and had earlier wanted to charge him with the attempted murder of Gavin, his friend!

The charges the police wished to charge Ryan with are explained as:

"Section 18 Assault – Wounding/Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) with intent. The most serious offense of violence is Section 18 grievous bodily harm and can also be known as wounding with intent. This offense is indictable only, which means it can only be dealt with in the Crown Court." (Olliers Solicitors)

Peter relayed the serious nature of the offenses to Ryan. He knew, of course, that Ryan had been acting in the role of saviour and that Gavin would most certainly have been dead, if he had not intervened to prevent the knife attack by the two assailants.

Unfortunately for readers, consultations between lawyers and clients are private and confidential and even years later, this will have to remain the case. Needless to say, from day one of interrogation to the first day of trial, the defense would seek to rely on the proportionality of the use of force used by Ryan to save his friend's life.


Special Courts and Emergency Legislation

Due to very real and prudent guidelines regarding consultations and what passes between defense lawyers and client with regard to confidentiality, only the briefest of precise can be recounted here. What took place in the so-called 'Serious Crime Suite' can be summarised as;

  • Three lengthy interrogations by detectives
  • Ryan made it clear, by way of a prepared statement in conjunction with his lawyer, that he only intervened to save his friend from being knifed to death.
  • The detectives planned to charge him with two counts of Section 18 Grievious Bodily Harm.
  • The detectives planned to hold him in custody that night and produce him at court the following day to have him remanded in custody.
  • As was so often the case, the police intended to have then dealt with by 'sectioning' under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act
  • In layperson's, like myself's terms, 'sectioning' meant that because of the police's false allusion to the case, or the defendant, having had some vague connection to 'Terrorism':
  1. Ryan would not be afforded a trial by a judge and jury;
  2. His trial would be held in front of a Judge in a so-called special Diplock Court
  3. As his charges had been 'sectioned' under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, bail applications could only be heard in the High Court;
  4. This was common practice by police to utilize emergency legislation to prevent defendants from being granted bail or to maximize the chances of a conviction by means of a no jury, Diplock Court.

Unfortunately, Gavin was still too badly injured, in the hospital's ICU, to make a statement, so very grudgingly, the detectives had to release Ryan on bail for a week, in the meantime. Ryan's respite from police custody was to be all too brief and much worse was yet to come, as Part Four explains

As can be seen, so-called Emergency Legislation can be tagged onto many minor charges, many of which are not even indictable.

As can be seen, so-called Emergency Legislation can be tagged onto many minor charges, many of which are not even indictable.

© 2019 Liam A Ryan

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