There is a famous Orson Welles film, Touch of Evil, in which he plays a half-mad sheriff in a small US southern border town.
This man has a great reputation as a law enforcer. For many years he has had an amazingly complete success in solving local crimes and bringing the criminals to book.
But as the story unfolds it is seen that during all those years he has been largely just framing innocent victims, sending them to jail or the death house for things they didn't do.
At the heart of the local law enforcement he has developed a crazy system that has nothing to do with law or justice. The machinery of law has itself become the greatest law-breaker, the source of a greater evil than any of the evils it supposedly exists to prevent or punish.
The story that is emerging during the Appeal Court hearing of the case of the "Birmingham Six" is also the story of a great evil at the heart of a system of policing and justice.
It is now universally accepted that these six Irishmen are innocent of the crimes for which they have spent 16 years in jail; that they were tortured into confessing all those years ago; that the police forensic scientists whose word was taken in their trial as the voice of certain knowledge were grossly incompetent or irresponsible; that the judge at the trial behaved towards the irregularities in the case like the gullible and inexperienced amateur he most certainly was not; and that later, over the years, a whole series of appeal judges behaved worse, ignoring, for example, the mounting evidence that the men were beaten up in custody and refusing even to consider what that might imply about their guilt or innocence.
As many as 25 Birmingham policemen - going as high as the rank of Superintendent- were involved in the conspiracy against the Birmingham Six.
A number of other cases involving Irish people have, in recent years, also been exposed as police conspiracies to frame and jail innocent women and men (and, in the case of the Maguire 7, innocent children). Nor are cases of police frame-ups confined to political or "Irish" cases.
Police frame-ups are a routine part of the British system of "justice". Even when those charged are guilty, it is common for the police to make sure of conviction by "strengthening" or manipulating the evidence.
Whatever about the theory of it, in action much of the "procedure" in British criminal courts consists of the police inventing, fiddling, or planting evidence, or faking confessions, and the judges believing them implicitly. In reality, the police frequently act as jury and judge and concoct evidence to get what they want. A lot of the court paraphernalia and procedures are a sham, a fiction, a charade.
What the Birmingham Six and the other-much publicised "Irish" cases bring starkly to our attention is a system of "justice" manipulated and shaped by the credibility with the judges and juries of the police. That the police do not deserve, and should not have, that credibility, is also proven by those cases.
Yet the Establishment has fought, and continues to fight, every inch of the way. The Birmingham Six are about to be released, more than a decade after it came out plainly in open court, if the judges had been willing to see it, that they were innocent.
And, when they are released, what is going to happen to those policemen who conspired to torture them and subjected them to wrongful imprisonment for 16 years? What will happen to the judges who colluded with the police and covered for them?
On all past experience, little or nothing. Policemen who are found out manipulating or fiddling evidenceÑthat is, conspiring to do very grievous harm to innocent citizens are routinely not even dismissed. "Seriously" offending policemen are frequently allowed to retire Ñ with pensions. Criminal prosecutions of policemen for such things are rare.
Yet those policemen have done very great harm - much greater harm than many crimes which carry stiff prison sentences.
Those cops are treated so leniently because the whole system is rotten and corrupt, right up to the judges. Not all of those gentlemen are as candid as old Denning, who has said that it would have been better "for the British system of justice" if the innocent Birmingham Six had been hanged and
got out of the way! But Denning's is their dominant philosophy, give or take a little hypocrisy, given or take the honest judge or the honest policeman.
Is all this not gross exaggeration? If the Birmingham Six case was just an aberration then everybody responsible, policemen and maybe some of the judges, would go to jail, and for a very long time.
Will they? What do you think?
ED Socialist Organiser 479