Jude Collins

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Death at Easter

If you encountered a burglar in your house, would you shoot him dead? And feel justified in doing so? I wouldn’t.  I might feel like pulverizing him but burglary isn’t a crime with capital punishment attached. Neither is car-stealing.

But if you’d listened to Terry Spence of the Police Federation on BBC Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh this morning, you might have been led to think otherwise. He was on defending the actions of a PSNI officer, who shot dead Steven Colwell.  The Police Ombudsman (himself under some heavy fire these days)  reports that in 2006 near Ballynahinch, 23-year-old Steven Colwell “was facing the officer with its (a stolen BMW's) engine revving, in what appeared to be an attempt to escape a vehicle checkpoint”. The officer drew his gun and shot Colwell through the front windscreen and again through a side window as the car tried to drive away. It was Easter Sunday and did I mention that Colwell, a Protestant, was wearing a Glasgow Celtic jersey?

Terry Spence with, what shall I say, some vigour insisted that the officer’s life was in danger as were the lives of other citizens, with this young car-thief careering around recklessly.  You’d have thought presenter Karen Patterson had herself been guilty of a crime, the way Terry responded to her mild suggestion that the young man maybe didn’t have to be shot dead.

Enough already. The police here have an Everest of a task to earn the trust and respect of every citizen. Today the Irish Times  reports on the Miami Showband massacre, and new claims that not only were two of those convicted members of the UDR, but that among the killers was an RUC agent.  Take the distrust produced by incidents like that – and an awful lot of people believe there were hundreds of them- and you see how important it is that the PSNI act to support the law and act clearly within the law. The fact that the killer of Steven Colwell still serves in the PSNI makes a lot of people uneasy. Why couldn’t a simple barrier or stinger or even a police car have been placed in the path of Colwell, rather than an officer with a pointed gun? Yes, stolen cars are lethal weapons but they’re lethal weapons that can be decommissioned by other methods than bringing a young life to a hopeless Easter Sunday end. Even if, wearing a Celtic top, he was assumed to be a Catholic. 


  1. Good article Jude. Keep up the good work, but be careful.
    The following quote is worth a read;
    "Policemen so cherish their status as keepers of the peace and protectors of the public that they have occasionally been known to beat (shoot) to death those citizens or groups who question that status."
    David Mamet.

  2. Ach, come on now Jude, the poor officer was undera lot of stress after months of bullying by a superior, anything wearing stripes evoked Mr Hyde. Imm, it's a wonder Wendy never thought of that one, imm.

  3. Jude
    Are you not assuming the officer must have been a protestant? Therefore shooting the assumed Catholic. Why else would you mention the celtic top?
    I do agree this man should not still be serving, and probably should never have made it in to the PSNI in the first place.
    Indeed if there is enough evidence he should be prosecuted.

  4. Gio - hello again. I suppose I did assume...Or did I? Actually I don't think I thought about his religion, only what happened. However, I think on reflection my final sentence is a poor one - there's almost some suggestion that the victim being a Catholic made him more likely to be shot than if it were assumed he was a Protestant. I don't believe that - I certainly don't want to believe it; but the fact that a young man from a Protestant background was wearing a Celtic top certainly complicates what happened. The essence of it is, though, that a young man lost his life and I don't think he should have. The case went through the courts as far as I know and the officer was exonerated - again as far as I know; but I still don't think it should have happened....There, you've started me off again, gio - I don't know whether to thank you or curse you. Oidhe mhaith - GOOD NIGHT.

  5. Might be an ideal to get "Officer" One's name.

  6. Ciaran
    The point is it doesn't matter if the officer was Protestant or not. It is the assumption that Jude made, or appeared to make, just as he was suggesting the same assumption being made about Steven Colwell by the officer.
    And I remember what the 2 Ronnies said about never assuming.

  7. What Jude assumed hardly matters - although I think he has a point - judged against the total unnecessary loss of life. If the driver had no arms or legs and was blind, Terry Spence would still be justifying his death.