The author is a QUB Pol Sci Honours graduate and has written extensively on imperialism, national liberation struggles and class issues.
Diplock Court - No Jury Trial
On the day of the trial, both Ryan's solicitor and barrister stated that there would be a 50/50 chance of acquittal. In lawyer-speak, this often means that everything would depend on Ryan's performance in the witness box. There were several technical witnesses against Ryan, mostly cops and forensics, but none of any real material value. One of the knife assailants turned up as a prosecution witness, the other was never seen again.
Unfortunately, Gavin, whose life had been saved by Ryan, was refusing to give evidence for the defence. As both Ryan's solicitor and barrister stated, his evidence would have been a major game-changer, needless to say, neither counsel had a high opinion of Gavin, to put it mildly. Despite the lack of loyalty, dishonesty and cowardice, Gavin still had the brass neck to sit with the Defence team but was ignored and basically, ostracised from any defence discussions, after all, whose side was he really on? Ryan's twin brother, Seán Patrick, was less than happy with the recreant's behaviour and was of the opinion, that Gavin should not even be seen to be part of the Defence side, with quite a bit of justification.
During the first part of the trial, once the technical witnesses were dispensed with, the knife attacker took the witness box, for the Prosecution. Even during the examination by their own Prosecution counsel, they told obvious lies, contrary to their statements, for instance, calling Gavin 'the big one who attacked us.' Even with the gentle steering of Prosecution council, they made glaring 'mistakes', blatant sequential errors.
Next, it was cross-examination time, by Defence counsel who ripped their tissue of lies to shreds. When asked why during their police interview they had said 'don't worry this will all be sorted out' and asked what this could possibly mean? "Could it mean that they had relatives in the police?" For reasons only known to the star prosecution witness, some form of serious amnesia quite glaringly set in! Defense counsel asked Ryan to stand up and asked the Prosecution witness would they agree that he was of a large muscular build, which they agreed with. They were then asked why, in both police statements and in testimony, they had several times referred to the person, they claimed started the altercation as the 'wee one' (Gavin). It was also raised, that they had mentioned, at least once, that both Ryan and Gavin were around the same size. One can only guess that perhaps, their charge reduction could likely have played some part in their role as a Prosecution witness? As Ryan was not afforded a trial by jury. perhaps readers can draw their own conclusion.
With day one of the trial over, Ryan was feeling confident but both counsels were adamant it was still 50/50. Both lawyers described the judge as a 'convicter' which did not sound at all positive, in a non-jury Diplock Court.
On day two, Ryan was called to the witness box and went through the process of swearing on the Bible "to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me G-D." Affirming on oath just hadn't reached G-d fearing Belfast as yet.
During examination by Defence counsel, Ryan's testimony was very much in sync with everything he had stated under caution and the Defence council's expertise created a seamless narrative. More importantly, they were able to demonstrate to a fair degree that a conviction would be unsafe.
Having finished examination by Defence counsel, it was now the turn of the Prosecution barrister. While the Prosecution tried the expected tactics, it has to be said that she was relatively fair, in her cross-examination. At one point, she asked was Gavin in the court, as we'd heard so much about him and would he be testifying (which she, of course, knew the answer to). Ryan replied by saying "Yes" he was, sitting in the front row but he was unaware, as yet, if he would be giving evidence. Quite surprisingly, that ended the cross-examination. All that remained was for everyone to take their seats and await the judge's verdict.
After a recess, the judge returned to issue his verdict. Needless to say, nerves were frayed. As the judge relayed his judgement, Ryan heard 'it would be unsafe to convict this man', indicating that Ryan been acquitted! Better was yet to come, in a commendation from the judge, who stated that Ryan 'had shown considerable fortitude in disarming and fighting off the attackers and that no doubt, without this intervention, 'Gavin' would have almost certainly died.'
All that was left to do, was to thank Ryan's lawyers who'd done sterling work during the whole lengthy case. Peter, the expert defense solicitor, just outside the courtroom, made a very pointed comment, no doubt for the benefit of Gavin, that 'Ryan had been the only honest man in the court today'. Ryan and his brother Seán Patrick and friends left the court thankful that justice had been served. No doubt, they'd have a quite the celebration that evening. It had been a long and draining process, with quite a few irregularities. In many ways, the possible scenarios of what could so easily have happened, on the night in question, or in the court itself were thoughts that must have dogged the honest.
As for Gavin, who sat through his own trial without fear of penalty, or the decency to give honest testimony, on behalf of a 'friend' who bravely and without hesitation, risked his own life to save his, well no-one will ever know, really, how individuals like that can look at themselves in the mirror. Ryan's partner, his twin brother and his wife cut off all ties with Gavin, having witnessed first hand his lack of loyalty and common decency. As for Ryan, he severed all ties to Gavin, after he tried to sabotage the relationship, between Ryan and his lifelong partner, for reasons best known to himself.
Dedicated to my twin brother, Dr. Seán Patrick, a Behavioral Psychologist who helped so many people in his career.
© 2019 Liam A Ryan