The Blanket

Bail For Sale - Nationalists Need Not Apply

A judge's duty is to grant justice, but his practice is to delay it: even those judges who know their duty adhere to the general practice - Jean de la Bruyere

Anthony McIntyre • 9 April 2004

The partisan discretion which has been exercised by the Northern Ireland judiciary since the inception of the state seems to have been alloyed little by the new dispensation we supposedly find ourselves in. At a recent High Court application made on behalf of West Belfast man, Tommy Tolan, compassionate bail was granted for a period of four hours so that the Ballymurphy man could visit his 11-year-old daughter in hospital where she was undergoing skin grafts to treat injuries sustained after being struck by a firework in the 1990s.

A maximum four hours bail accompanied by a court stipulation that the bailed man remain in the presence of a family member for the duration of the short time outside the prison walls is a stringent condition. While Tolan’s young daughter will benefit from his presence at her hospital bedside, four hours in which to do that is hardly an act of judicial generosity. Nor does there appear to be any credible reason why continuous bail should not be granted, given the needs of the child being treated and the nature of the charges preferred against the accused. Police objections on the grounds that Tolan is likely to commit more offences evokes a mere, ‘they would say that wouldn’t they.’ Besides, alleged links to ‘paramilitary’ bodies has not been an obstacle in the way of bail in other cases.

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