Akef Alquasar - Thank you for taking a brave stand

ANYONE of us who wishes to live in a society where the protection of the law means something tangible and worth fighting for owes a great debt of gratitude to Akef Alquasar.

Anyone of us who hopes that their family can continue to feel safe and that the gardaí will remain in a position to successfully confront ever-more violent and dangerous criminals should ask themselves if they would have the courage to do what Mr Alquasar did.

Mr Alquasar had the rare and exemplary courage to stand in an open court and face a man who had tried to dissuade him from giving evidence against another man — Darren Larkin — who had tried to blow his head off with a sawn-off shotgun.

During Larkin’s trial for attempted murder Mr Alquasar received a phone call ordering him to drop the charges. He was told: “You f**king black bastard. I will blow your head off, fire an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) into your house and cut up your son.”

Akef Alquasar would have known that these were not idle threats as the gang involved had already shown that they were capable of lethal violence — they had tried to murder him at his place of work.

This only makes his decision to give evidence against one of them all the more commendable.

David Goulding, aged 30, has been jailed for three years by Judge Patrick McCartan for interfering with Mr Alquasar in the attempted murder trial.

Is three years in jail enough for someone who tried to protect someone who tried to murder another man?

In a country where a gangster high on cocaine and driving a stolen car shoots a doorman simply because he was refused entry to a nightclub, the courage needed to do what Mr Alquasar did is indeed uncommon.

In a country where a nightclub doorman can be murdered because he would not let drug dealers ply their trade inside another nightclub, it is doubly so.

Many of us will have sneered at some of the people who have been suddenly afflicted by amnesia during the course of various murder trials and feel obliged — or call it what it is, terrorised — to withdraw incriminating statements made earlier to gardaí.

Inevitably, when these statements are withdrawn trials collapse and those charged, those identified by the gardaí and prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions, are set free.

Though it must be remembered that no one has been convicted of a crime in these instances it leaves a sour taste in the mouth, a feeling that a wrong as been done and that the bad guys have won.

This feeling of unease is deepened when you consider that there must be great many cases that never even get to the courts because people feel it unwise to offer any evidence against violent, career criminals.

Mr Alquasar, who is now in the witness protection programme, had been living in Blanchardstown for nearly 20 years so he would have been aware of the number of cases that collapse because witnesses feel unable to give evidence.

It is hard not to have a degree of empathy if not sympathy with people who feel unable to stand in open court and confront their local Tony Soprano. This empathy must be informed by a reasonable degree of doubt about how we would react if we were in the same position. That is why Mr Alquasar’s stand is so commendable and represents a challenge for anyone in a similar situation.

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