Republican News · Thursday 09 March 2000

[An Phoblacht]

British bugged jail interviews


Confidential intervews between Irish political prisoner Michael O'Brien and his lawyer, Gareth Peirce, were bugged by the British secret services while O'Brien was on remand in an English jail, former MI5 officer David Shayler has revealed.

Gareth Peirce, who has represented miscarriage of justice victims the Guildford Four and many other such high profile defendants in political cases, was recorded taking a statement from her client O'Brien while the Dublin man was on remand in Belmarsh Prison in 1992. According to Shayler the bugging was carried out by the Metropolitan Police Special Branch.

Gareth Peirce said that the latest revelations could have an effect on a whole range of convictions in the English courts and said that all lawyers would have to proceed on the basis that such practices are still in operation.

Michael O'Brien was accused in connection with the shooting of a British police officer and received an 18-year sentience. He was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in August 1998.

``Many prisoners at Belmarsh at that time were convinced that their legal visits were being listened to,'' said Gareth Peirce. ``I sought assurances from the governor about the position, as did other solicitors. We were provided with verbal and written gurantees that there was no such possibility.''

Shayler's revelations are serious in the extreme. The principle of confidentiality for a solicitor's client is one of the central principles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Trials would be stopped if it could be proven that the prosecution was in possession of recordings of legal interviews with a defendant.

David Shayler's solicitor has offered the evidence to the British government and its Intelligence and Security Committee but both have refused to accept it.

The British government has for some time been trying to prosecute Shayler under official secrets legislation for his revelations about numerous activities by his former employers. He currently lives in exile in Paris.

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