Justice Minister post- Correspondence issued to OFMDFM

Acting on my behalf, lawyers have written to OFMDFM asking for consideration to be given to non-MLA’s for the post of Justice Minister. 

” I believe the primary legislation intended for such an option to be considered by OFMDFM and accordingly it is my contention that failure to consider such an option is acting ultra vires of the enabling legislation. 

” Of course it would be beyond ludicrous for OFMDFM to ever seriously consider me for the post of Justice Minister, but they should consider, as per the original legislation, non-elected persons who have sufficient experience and qualifications. 

” Such individuals would be much preferable to an MLA placed there for political convenience.

” I am seeking to expose the politically dysfunctional nature of OFMDFM whilst legitimately challenging a fault line within the implementation of the legislative framework.” 

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Self Defence- Why Rangers fans had a legal right to defend themselves and others 

Following my tweet last night, which came shortly after a statement from Rangers Football Club that praised the restraint shown by fans, there was much feigned outrage by social media trolls. 

The predictable diatribe of illiterate rantings by internet obsessives was, surprisingly, littered with some sensible points of debate which were raised- naturally- by more normal and sensible persons. 

I tweeted the following; 

“Rangers fans are legally protected if they entered the field of play to use reasonable force to protect a player who was under attack.” 

It is, of course, beyond the pot noodle eating bedroom trolls to dissect such a paragraph and understand its meaning, so understandably many of the intellectually challenged internet warriors flew into a frenzy. 

Responses also came from a number of lawyers- some agreeing with what I had highlighted, others disagreeing. One particular law firm- McGovern Court Lawyers- managed to miss the point entirely and point out that the criteria for self defence (or defence of another) excludes rioting. 

They are entirely correct and but this would only have been relevant had I said “legal protections are there for fans who entered the pitch to riot”. This is vastly different than “…to use reasonable force to protect a player who was under attack.” 

Rangers fans who entered the field of play in order to protect a player who was coming under attack, by a violent mob, would not have been entering to riot, but rather to intervene to protect the life or safety of another. 

One must be mindful of the fact that the policing and stewards had lost control, Rangers players were surrounded and under attack, therefore- I believe- an intervention to disrupt an ongoing assault would be reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances. 

It is, of course, ludicrous to suggest that in normal circumstances it would be reasonable and proportionate to run onto the pitch to intervene in a fight between opposing players or even if a fan- or small number of fans- had encroached on the playing area. In such a circumstance it would be a matter for the police and stadium security to fulfil their duties. 

However, in law context is everything and in the context of the events on Saturday the stadium authorities had lost control of a rapidly evolving and ugly situation. 

It is also important to note that many thousands of Hibs fans surged onto the pitch and charged violently whilst provocatively waving Irish tri-colours, which are understandably seen by many Unionists as representative of the terrorist IRA and the Irish Government that assisted in arming and assisting that murderous organisation. 

Such provocation- whilst not in itself reason to enter the playing area- can also, in the circumstances, not be discounted in mitigating the reasons why Rangers fans would have felt fearful and defensive. 

In those circumstances it is entirely reasonable that families with children would be fearful for their safety as a baying mob- who had completely overrun the policing and security staff- marauded across the pitch towards them. The most obvious reaction for those with children would have been to head for the exit, however in the panic and confusion there was obviously a likelihood that an urgent surge in panic towards the exit could have caused children, or others, to be crushed or seriously injured. 

Therefore, in order to prevent such a tragic event, it would be entirely reasonable to conclude that adults, especially single men, would move away from the exits in order to leave them clear for fleeing women and children. The only option in this circumstance was clearly to move towards the pitch. 

It is clear from all footage that Rangers players and supporters were vastly outnumbered. One media outlet reported in the region of 5,000 Hibernian supporters and a few hundred Rangers fans. If ever there was a need for self defence, then surely such a circumstance justifies a reasonable and proportionate use of force to protect yourself and/or others. 

In determining the test for self defence it is always prudent to read the worlds of Lord Parker CJ in Chisam (1963) 47 Cr App Rep 130 :

“…. where a forcible and violent felony is attempted upon the person of another, the party assaulted, or his servant, or any other person present, is entitled to repel force by force, and, if necessary, to kill the aggressor ….”.

It is clear from the words of Lord Parker that a reasonable and proportionate intervention was lawful under the circumstances. Instigating an attack and/or acting provocatively or using excessive force would not be lawful. 

For example; chasing a Hibernian supporter who was running away towards his own end and attacking him would not be self defence. In contrast, intervening as a mob of Hibernian fans attacked a Rangers player, coach or supporter would be entirely justified. 

Therefore, if a Rangers supporter entered the playing area- in a genuine attempt to intervene to prevent violence upon another or themselves, or acted in self defence having moved towards the pitch for safety reasons- then I believe such actions would be justified.

In such a circumstance, it appears that one of the obvious methods to challenge any prosecution that followed would be for the defence to lodge notices, to the Court and the Crown, in advance of any trial under Section 78 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 for self defence and/or provocation. 

It should also be noted that “excitement” or “joy” is not defence for causing criminal damage or engaging in acts of violence or provocation. 

Therefore, the attempts by some commentators to excuse or laugh off the actions of Hibs fans are little short of disgraceful and comes very close to condoning the vile behaviour of those Hibs fans that invaded the pitch to cause damage and/or violence. 

Alliance party should let SF/DUP fall into their own hole 

The impending ‘crisis’ over the Stormont justice ministry is one which could have been predicted from before the ink was even dry on the Hillsborough agreement. 

The flawed architecture of our system of government, whereby all parties of a moderate size are in the Executive as of right, is by its very nature dysfunctional. This is the roots of bastardised democracy that was put down by the Belfast Agreement and copper fastened by the DUP’s shredding of all their principles at St Andrews. 

At the time of the Belfast Agreement some may have felt that extraordinary measures needed put in place to kick-start the government. That, I suppose, is understandable. Why we would need a system of such perverted democracy almost two decades after the Belfast Agreement is beyond comprehension. 

The DUP ran their deceptive election campaign with one clear message- vote for us to keep Sinn Fein out! Yet the final ballot was hardly cast when already the DUP and Sinn Fein were back in bed together. One of the first acts of the new assembly was for the DUP and Sinn Fein to horse trade for the speakers positions. 

The UUP’s move into opposition shone a light on the sheer arrogance of the DUP and Sinn Fein. Both reacted with fury that anyone would dare to have an opposition. Their dictatorship version of democracy would better suited to North Korea rather than a civilised western democracy. 

Of course as partners in government the DUP won’t even sit on the same side of the house. Why not? That’s how democracy works- one side of the house is the government and on the other is the opposition. 

The DUP want to keep up the pretence that they are the enemies of Sinn Fein, when in fact they are the sustainers of Sinn Fein in government. They should sit shoulder to shoulder and let the visual image beamed from the chamber reflect the reality- a vote for the DUP was a vote for Sinn Fein in government. 

Now that the happy couple have found themselves in another conundrum they want to bully the Alliance party to ‘do the right thing’. Why should the Alliance party dig the DUP and Sinn Fein out of such an epic hole? No, the Alliance party should do the right thing and let the DUP and Sinn Fein fall right into that deepening hole and let the people of Northern Ireland see the reality of the fatally flawed system of government that hangs like a millstone around the neck of genuine peace and democracy. 

The Alliance party have no mandate for government. They should not be in government and they most certainly should not prop up the DUP and Sinn Fein. Let them sort their own mess out. 

Life lessons from the Leicester City fairytale 

Fairytale is a word seldom used appropriately in the sporting world these days. Quite often it is tagged on to some one-off success, twist of fate or lucky event. 

In the case of Leicester City, fairytale is the only appropriate word for an achievement so magnificent that I defy anyone to claim that they saw it coming at the start of the season.

Even at the turn of the year, I dismissed their chances, telling people “they won’t last the pace” and “they will buckle under the pressure”. How wrong I- and almost everyone else- was. 

There was nothing lucky about Leicester City’s achievement. You don’t win Premier League titles by a fluke or lucky bounce. Over the course of the most competitive and gruelling league season in the world of football, whoever comes out on top deserves to be there. 

Their league winning achievement is, however, testament to much more than sporting talent. 
They do not- even now- have have the best players. They do not- by any stretch of the imagination- have a bank balance that could match the ‘big teams’. But they quite clearly have a determination, a bond and a mental strength that has compensated for their underdog status in every other department. 

The ‘big teams’ could take a lesson from Leicester City in how not to choke under pressure. The ‘underdogs’ never once wavered or buckled under an increasingly hot pressure cooker. 

In recent weeks they have trailed 2-1 at home going into stoppage time. A hotly disputed red card for their most high profile player- Jamie Vardy-and a cruel penalty kick awarded against them in the 84th minute would have been enough to make many ‘underdogs’ believe that it just wasn’t to be and buckle. They didn’t. They fought back and got themselves level in stoppage time. 

When they fell behind at Old Trafford on Sunday many teams would have collapsed. They didn’t, they kept believing, methodically sticking to their game plan and continuing to play and believe that their objective was achievable. 

And all the while they were being guided by a quiet and reserved ‘tinker man’ on the sidelines. A much maligned manager sacked five times previously. After five sackings- many of them high profile- most people would have retreated into their shells. Instead the Italian exuded a silent inner strength and belief in his own ideas that has lead him to take his team to the pinnacle of the English Premier League. 

I sometimes wonder in life- as in sport- do we look at the superficial, and miss the key ingredients. In football, teams chances are judged on their financial wealth and the superficial assessment of the talent of their players. Very little attention is payed to those that superficially look weak or vulnerable; but it is often these ‘underdogs’ that internally possess a mental strength much greater than any of their wealthier and more overly promising opponents. The same can be said about life. 

In the age of social media many prominent sports stars, politicians, journalists or high profile public servants are subjected to a relentless pressure cooke- which arises from constant critique that often simply becomes a barrage of abuse and harassment. This is now commonly known as trolling. 

Quite often those who jump on such trolling bandwagons are insecure and weak individuals that display a superficial ‘strength’ that masks a deep underlying weakness. 

The converse is quite often true about the ‘underdogs’ on the receiving end. Those who suffer such abuse with dignity and the mental strength to ensure that all the ‘white noise’ does not emotionally rile them or deflect them from their chosen objective or profession, are more often than not the real winners. 

In the end the pressure cooker of social media assaults becomes about as effective as a pea shooter firing at a brick wall. The attackers become desperate trolls laying siege to their ‘victim’- only to find themselves coming up against a Leicester City. 

I have used the example of social media trolling, but the same can be applied to any walk of life. 

I periodically get invited to speak to politics students or groups of young people, sometimes in schools. 

When I speak to grammar schools I try and include somewhere in my message that because grammar schools- on the face of it- indicate the pupils there are more academically promising, this does not bestow entitlement upon those lucky enough to be afforded such opportunity. 

When I speak to non-grammar schools I remind the pupils that their superficial ‘underdog’ status does not consign them to defeat in life. 

Someday someone will write a book looking at the mental strength of the Leicester City football team and how they coped with pressure.

 It will be essential reading for anyone seeking to succeed against all the odds- and superficial ‘inferiority’- in politics, business, media, sports, their chosen profession or generally in life. 

Leicester City have given us all a life lesson. It’s what lies beneath that counts. 

Open letter to DUP Project Fear leader-Arlene Foster 

Dear Arlene, 

I have recently received a letter from you, urging me to vote for your DUP candidates. 

The core message within your letter appears to be that only a vote for the DUP can effectively keep Sinn Fein out. 

This is slightly confusing, given that you have already cooked up your program for Government alongside your long standing joint partners in OFMDFM, Sinn Fein- the same Sinn Fein that you say a vote for the DUP will keep out! 

I understand that party strategists had to find some method to deflect from the DUP corruption that ran right throughout the Nama sale and the nefarious dealings with property developers along the way, but the perception that your standing in every constituency only serves to add to the confusion. 

Their strategic idea was, it seems, to play the fear card. The one contrived at St Andrews by the very man your party is trying so hard to forget, Mr Peter Robinson. 

Of course, it is by virtue of the St Andrews Act that there is a possibility of a Sinn Fein First Minister. 
With this knowledge I would have suspected that every DUP MP would have been up in arms trying to stop the passage of the St Andrews Act at Westminister? I was mistaken, not one single DUP MP voted against the passage of the very piece of legislation that opened the door to a Sinn Fein First Minister. 
I am sure you can then understand my confusion when you warn me of the dangers of a Sinn Fein First Minister. 

The DUP were so concerned around the dangers of Sinn Fein in Government that the party jumped in and out of the Executive- leaving you to bolt the Nama vault in Finance naturally- before happily returning to the OFMDFM bosom once it was confirmed that the IRA Army Council remained in existence and had control over weapons. 

Again, I am confused. It was the DUP that hounded David Trimble from office over the existence of the Army Council and IRA guns. Yet now- in 2016- guns and government poses no problems for the DUP. 

Amidst all my confusion one thing is crystal clear, you and the baby barristers at party HQ think I- and the entire electorate- are stupid. 

A vote for your DUP candidates is not a vote for Sinn Fein out- it is a vote for Sinn Fein in! A vote for the DUP is a vote to ensure that the political wing of the armed IRA remain in the joint First Minister position. 

So Mrs Foster, on the 5th of May I won’t be voting for your DUP candidates. 

I am a bit of a political anorak, I like to keep all the electoral communications I receive. I tend to put them in bundles. Your letter will go in the bundle alongside your coalition partners- Sinn Fein! 

Kind regards 

Jamie Bryson