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Ceasefire brings new hope for prisoner to prove innocence After the IRA ceasefire, nationalists are looking for changes to restore their faith in the legal system. Suzanne Breen reports on a prisoner who hopes for another chance to prove he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice; [CITY EDITION] Irish Times. Dublin: Jul 24, 1997. pg. 6 Abstract (Summary)

From his cell in the Maze prison, Christy Walsh has painstakingly studied trial judgments and case histories with an enthusiasm more usually found in an ambitious young lawyer. During a visit to the Co Antrim jail, he takes you through complex documents and draws tortuous diagrams with zeal. Walsh (34), a painter and decorator from Broadway in west Belfast, was the first person in the North to be jailed for possessing a coffee-jar bomb. The soldier said that when he did this, Walsh was holding a coffee jar bomb in his right hand. Cpl [Blacklock] said he told Walsh to place it on a nearby wall. There was Sellotape, with the sticky side out, around the lid of the device, making it very receptive to fibres. "I was meant to have had this device in my pocket, yet no fibres from my clothing were found on the jar," Walsh says. Fibres belonging to someone other than Walsh were found on the jar.

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Copyright Irish Times Ltd. Jul 24, 1997 From his cell in the Maze prison, Christy Walsh has painstakingly studied trial judgments and case histories with an enthusiasm more usually found in an ambitious young lawyer. During a visit to the Co Antrim jail, he takes you through complex documents and draws tortuous diagrams with zeal. Walsh (34), a painter and decorator from Broadway in west Belfast, was the first person in the North to be jailed for possessing a coffee-jar bomb. He is in the sixth year of a 14-year prison sentence. While saying that he is a republican, he points out the only organisation to which he ever belonged was Amnesty International. He was jailed in 1992 on the evidence of two members of the Parachute Regiment. Cpl Blacklock told Belfast Crown Court that he stopped Walsh in an alley off the Suffolk Road on June 5th, 1991 and asked him to take his hands out of his pockets. The soldier said that when he did this, Walsh was holding a coffee jar bomb in his right hand. Cpl Blacklock said he told Walsh to place it on a nearby wall. Another paratrooper, Pte Boyce, corroborated this evidence. He said that he had a clear view of the whole episode from the road opposite the alley. Walsh's version of events is very different. It was a Wednesday afternoon and he was heading to the Swillybrin Inn on the Suffolk Road to meet a friend. He told the court that he was walking down the alley - a popular local short-cut - when he was stopped by a paratrooper.

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He said that the soldier pointed to a jar sitting on a nearby wall and asked if he knew what it was or where it was from. Walsh told the soldier that he didn't and started to walk on. He said that the soldier caught hold of him and swivelled him around. He threw his left hand onto the wall, close to the coffee jar, to prevent himself from falling into the wall. He said Pte Boyce only arrived in the alley later and was not in view when he was initially detained by Cpl Blacklock "he could not have witnessed the scene". Walsh argued the forensic evidence supported his case. He was not wearing gloves and it was a warm day so his hands would have been sweaty, yet his fingerprints weren't on the jar. Smudged fingerprints were found on the jar suggesting that someone wearing gloves had handled it. Walsh says that this supports his case that someone else left the bomb on the wall. The alley was used more regularly than the main road, he says, and anyone could have placed the jar on the wall. The bomb contained Semtex, a highly-transferable explosive, yet no traces of it were found in his right hand in which he is said to have held the device. A trace of explosives was found on his left hand. Walsh said that it got there when he threw his hand on the wall beside the bomb to prevent himself from falling. That explanation, he says, is supported by the fact that no trace of explosives was found in his left pocket which would have been impossible if his hand had been contaminated before he was stopped by the soldiers. There was Sellotape, with the sticky side out, around the lid of the device, making it very receptive to fibres. "I was meant to have had this device in my pocket, yet no fibres from my clothing were found on the jar," Walsh says. Fibres belonging to someone other than Walsh were found on the jar. Walsh believed that the forensic evidence would set him free and was amazed when the judged deemed it "neutral". The court accepted the soldiers' evidence was at times contradictory but did not accept that it was discredited. The nub of the case was which version of events - that of the soldiers or that of Walsh - was correct. The judge sided with the soldiers. However, following an appeal last year in the Irish News, two new witnesses, Liam Magill and Conor Bradley, came forward to corroborate Walsh's evidence. They said Pte Boyce was around the corner on the Suffolk Road when Walsh was stopped and would not have witnessed the initial detention. Walsh's case has been referred to the Criminal Review Commission, the new body set up to deal with alleged miscarriages of justice. The new witnesses are not the only reason he has to be hopeful. After his arrest, Walsh was denied legal advice for 48 hours in Castlereagh interrogation centre. Last year, in the case of Belfast man, John Murray, the European Court of Human Rights found that to deny someone access to a solicitor in the first 48 hours of police questioning violated their human rights. With remission, Walsh is due for release next year but he says that he has no intention of giving up the fight to prove his innocence. Before his arrest, he had no criminal record. He had never been cautioned or detained for questioning and was not known to police. "On June 5th, 1991, I was simply someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he says. "The court was faced with a choice between the word of a paratrooper and the word of an ordinary nationalist and it chose to believe the paratrooper. I have lost my job and my home. My mother died while I was in jail. But I am not a defeated man. I will keep struggling to clear my name no matter how long it takes." Indexing (document details) People:

Breen, Suzanne, Walsh, Christy

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HOME NEWS

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Irish Times. Dublin: Jul 24, 1997. pg. 6

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Newspaper

ProQuest document ID: 68392205 Text Word Count

939

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Irish Times 24July 1997