A solicitor representing four people who were acquitted of charges relating to the alleged IRA questioning of Maíria Cahill has complained that they have been subjected to “trial by the media”.
Peter Madden of Belfast solicitors Madden and Finucane said the fallout from last week's BBC Spotlight programme about alleged rape victim Ms Cahill meant his clients' acquittals "have been either ignored or devalued".
Mr Madden represents former IRA prisoner Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane - brother of murdered Belfast solicitor, Pat Finucane - Briege Wright and Maura McCrory.
In May this year they had charges against them dropped of arranging Provisional IRA meetings. This related to Ms Cahill’s allegations that members of the IRA had “interrogated” her to determine whether she or her alleged rapist was telling the truth in relation to the sexual assault.
Mr Madden said he was issuing the statement on behalf of his clients “and in response to the unprecedented media onslaught that they have had to endure since the recent BBC Spotlight broadcast”.
“The cases against my clients were the subject of an intensive and lengthy high-ranking police investigation. They were then prosecuted by the office of the PPS, which was represented at all times in court by an experienced senior and junior counsel,” he said.
“The complainant Maíria Cahill was therefore afforded every available resource the state could offer,” added Mr Madden.
“There were protracted legal arguments relating to the procedures and evidence in these cases. The charge of IRA membership against Padraic Wilson was dismissed by the court at the first opportunity as there was no evidence to support it at all,” he continued.
“The other charges were to be contested and ultimately Maíria Cahill, the main prosecution witness, was to be cross-examined about her version of events which was not accepted by my clients.
“She refused to allow this to take place and would not participate in the normal method of giving evidence at a trial, where the truth of her version of events would be tested by cross-examination. My clients were therefore found not guilty of these offences.”
Mr Madden said that “in any normal society that would be the end of the matter and my clients should have been permitted to go back to their normal lives”.
“However the rule of law has been subverted by the ongoing trial by the media against my clients. Their acquittals have been either ignored or devalued,” he said.
“We welcome the announcement by the DPP that there will be a review of the prosecution of these cases and we hope that the principles of openness and transparency stated by the DPP will extend to providing us with full disclosure during the process.”