RUC harassment of lawyers to be monitored

Derry’s Pat Finucane Centre has welcomed the implementation by the Law Society in the Six Counties of a more formal system by which solicitors can register complaints against RUC harassment.

In a notice in this month’s edition of “The Writ”, the magazine of the Law Society, solicitors experiencing harassment from either the RUC, Prison Service or any agency within the criminal or civil justice system, are invited to write to the society president with the details.

A spokesperson for the Pat Finucane Centre described the Law Society’s decision as “belated”. “Another welcome step would be for the Law Society to call for an independent inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane.” The Centre pointed out that numerous international human rights groups and individuals have already called for an independent inquiry. The Law Society’s decision followed recent criticism from a United Nations lawyer who slammed the society for failing to protect its members. Data Param Cumaraswamy spent ten days last October in the Six Counties and London gathering information on the intimidation and harassment of defence lawyers.

Meanwhile senior defence lawyers are being asked to call for a “root and branch” review of the RUC. A letter currently being circulated amongst solicitors in the North expresses “grave concern at the failure of the rule of law”. The letter calls for the repeal of emergency laws, a review of policing and the administration of justice, the closure of RUC detention centres, restoration of the right to silence and an inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. “Central to the conflict in Northern Ireland has been the failure of the law to guarantee equal protection of rights,” says the letter, “ an application in practice of the principle that all are equal under the law is fundamental to a resolution of the conflict.”