The Four, The Six, The Seven and the 96 — Government “Havering” In the name of the Law?

16 Jul









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14th March 1991.

The television picture is the same on virtually every channel. 6 men, all linking arms or raising arms aloft, smiling and celebrating victory. Rows and rows of press photographers all snapping away, television cameras by the score following their every move and microphones straining to pick up their every utterance.


The Birmingham Six were free after 16 years of unwarranted and unjustified incarceration.
I just happened to be in a neighbour’s house when the pictures came on to the television screen yet again.


We both looked at the TV and I couldn’t help but say “Isn’t it great that they are free at last?”
My neighbour was and still is a nice woman. Older than me, pleasantly middle class, reasonably well educated, English, Christian, a mother, grandmother and someone who enjoys all the benefits and mini vices of a comfortable West of Scotland existence – she is by no means someone who I would regard as either sheltered or a bigot of any kind.


“ Yes” she said “ But they must have been guilty of something! Innocent people do not get sent to prison for nothing” she exclaimed.


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And she believed what she was saying.


I was shocked at her response and if I am honest I am still shocked some 23 years later.


Yet, as I now look back at events, I should have been less surprised at her statement than I was.
I came from an Irish Background. My father was an Irishman and held an Irish Passport. My Grandparents were Irish. I had made a point of reading about and researching the cases of the Birmingham six, the Guildford Four, The Maguire seven and various other injustices that befell Irish/British people in particular following the introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I was also aware of the investigations into and the ultimate disbanding of the notorious West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, the various convictions of British Authorities before the European Court of Human rights – especially those relating to the use of the so called “5 techniques” deployed by the police and security forces in Northern Ireland— and how in fact British Policeman had been found to use torture techniques for years.


In addition I was legally qualified. I could look at what a judge said to a jury in his charge at the end of a trial and so could question the fairness or impartiality of what a judge was saying from a knowledgeable and trained perspective.


In essence, I was a young man with what I regarded as a healthy disdain for the criminal and judicial system employed by the state and was ready to question it in a methodical and calculated manner – mixed in with a controlled degree of emotion and passion when something reeked of injustice!


My neighbour, on the other hand, was a housewife who genuinely believed unquestionably in the courts, the law and the system which allowed her to sleep easily in her bed.
She had always been taught and led to believe that it was the fairest legal system in the world.
I wonder what she thinks now?


In England, the judge who is effectively the head judge in all civil courts is known jokingly as “The Head Baker” or to give him his full title “ The Master of the Rolls”.


One of the most famous judges to have held that position was The Right Honourable Lord Denning QC who was a man with an excellent legal brain, a lilting West Country accent and an inbuilt, almost genetically programmed, automatic defence mechanism which kicked in when anyone sought to undermine the English Legal System.


In dealing with one legal case he famously pronounced “ Whatever is the law of England, I shall take to be the law of Scotland” so demonstrating a complete and utter disregard for the fact that Scotland has a completely separate legal system which is based on an entirely different legal approach to the system in England. If the two were to conflict in Denning’s court, there would only be one winner.


To Denning, and many of his colleagues, the English Court and Legal System was the best in the world, it was infallible, it had to be protected from attack and criticism at all costs no matter who or what did the attacking and even if there were an error, the system had to be maintained and protected even if it meant that one or two innocent people spent time in prison.


Denning once said this clearly and publicly to the television cameras of the BBC in the course of one of the early Rough Justice programmes and when the programme was broadcast to the nation there was scarcely a ripple at his lordship’s position.


That is the way it was in the early 70’s and for literally the next 20 years.


To an extent, that is still the way it is today – although subsequent events have brought about some reforms but the belief in the system and the protection of the system is still there.
It is ingrained and automatic.


The recent death of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four has brought many column inches recalling the events surrounding the imprisonment of the Four – Conlon, Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson – back into focus.


Over the years, many books have been written and articles printed by anyone and everyone involved in the campaign to free the four and the Maguire Seven and later the Birmingham Six.
Reading the majority of these together you are faced with wave after wave of accounts of Police beatings together with prosecution tactics and decisions to withhold vital evidence from the court and the defence which would shore up alibis and keep quiet inconvenient facts from “The system’s” point of view. Further, these accounts show unbelievably obvious bias and impartiality, together with cataclysmic failures to understand the rule of law, from the judges on bench.
For a period of certainly a decade and a half at the very least, miscarriages of justice in the English Courts were a regular and common occurrence in a system which far from being the envy of the civilised world was instead an international disgrace.


Further, the Mother of all Parliaments can take an equal share of the blame for such a complete failure in the justice systems. Many of the leading figures who played a major part in making a complete mess of people’s lives through the court system were also MP’s, close to or in Government and were to all intents and purposes leading members of “The establishment”.
An establishment that chose repeatedly to protect itself rather than recognise that dozens if not hundreds of innocent people were banged up in jail for no good reason under a system that was, to be frank, rotten!


It is no wonder then, that all the obituaries to Gerry Conlon reflect on his emerging from the Old Bailey, angry, with fist clenched, telling the world that he had been imprisoned for 15 years while all the time being an innocent man.


It is no wonder, that all the reports tell you that Gerry suffered throughout the rest of his life with drink and drug addiction and that he could never come to terms with what had happened to him and his father who died in custody when he was also an innocent man.

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Giuseppe Conlon


Yet in recalling these events, the reports miss both a more general message and at the same time fail to hit home with some hard detailed facts which, I believe, should make any right minded person sit up, take notice and, most importantly, ask questions which are still absolutely vital and applicable to this day.


For many people, the story of the Guildford Four and their eventual acquittal is represented by the award winning Hollywood movie In the Name of the Father where Daniel Day Lewis portrays Conlon and the late Pete Postlethwaite gave a marvellous performance as Gerry’s father Giuseppe, who died in prison while wrongly incarcerated as one of the Maguire Seven.


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Yet the truth of the matter is that In the Name of the Father is one of the most factually inaccurate movies I have ever seen and completely and utterly misrepresents the events surrounding the Guildford Four and their ordeal.


The movie itself went a huge way towards protecting the establishment and the system that so badly failed those who were imprisoned.


When the IRA started its mainland bombing campaign in 1973 a very obvious and almost immediate consequence was the swell of anti-Irish sentiment that spread throughout the land.
There were hundreds of thousands of Irish people living in mainland Britain at the time. If you take their children and grandchildren, who were born in mainland Britain, then the number increases considerably.


When the bombings started that community of people all started to come under suspicion, suffer prejudice, and found that they were regarded differently by people who had been their neighbours, friends and colleagues for years.


After the Birmingham bombs, there were reports of absolutely open fights between Irish and English work colleagues at one of the car factories in the area. This became a real industrial relations problem for the plant with some Englishmen refusing to work with Irish born colleagues with whom they had worked peaceably for years.


Throughout the late seventies and well into the eighties, young English born men who came from Irish families had a greater rate of suicide than any other ethnic group. There was huge confusion among such young men about their identity and ethnicity, and many just could not cope with perceived prejudice, lack of opportunity and bias which they were helpless to change.
There is a great TV interview with Patrick Maguire ( one of the Maguire seven ) who was arrested along with his mother at the age of 13 and subsequently sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for supposedly making bombs.


His accent is pure London with not a trace of an Irish accent. He reveals that he was born in Belfast but that he left there at the age of 4 weeks old living the rest of his life in England. In the interview he says he has nothing to do with “The troubles” other than that he has family who live in the six counties who are obviously affected by what was happening there. When he is asked “Are you a member of the IRA?” he clearly and automatically says “No” and then adds rather sheepishly “ But I was a member of the Scouts!”


Gerry Conlon in interview made the obvious point that during the troubles thousands upon thousands of young men and woman from Northern Ireland left home at the time to get away from the craziness that was to be found on the streets of Derry and Belfast and elsewhere.


It is what many sensible parents would have advised at the time, telling their kids to” get the hell out of here” and away to the “peace” of England where, as Conlon described, you could go for a pint in peace, chase girls, and not have to worry about bumping into soldiers, policemen or provos on the stagger home.


However, the British Government didn’t think of any of those innocent people when it introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act after the bombings started.


The Prevention of Terrorism Act ( temporary provisions ) were introduced by Home Secretary Roy Jenkins on 28th November 1974 and became law by passing through the entire Parliamentary process in less than 24 hours. The act spent less than 10 minutes being considered by the Lords, and created unprecedented powers in peacetime. Jenkins himself described the measures introduced by the act as Draconian.


As a result, Police Officers could now hold a suspect without charge and without access to a solicitor or advising anyone that they had someone in custody for a week.


Until that point, a suspect had to be released or charged and processed within 48 hours. The original period of 48 hours was introduced because American studies showed that if you pressurised someone enough within a 48 hour period they were likely to crack under that pressure.


The Birmingham Six were arrested on 21st November 1974 and supposedly confessed within the 48 hour period then allowed to the Police for conducting “interviews”.


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Paul Hill ( Guildford Four ) was arrested at 11:15 am on Thursday 28th November but within 24 Hours the Police had the power to hold him for a week. Hill became the very first person detained under the new act.


Hill, Conlon and Paddy Armstrong would all later claim that they were beaten and as a result supposedly confessed to acts they did not commit —- sure everyone now knows that.
However what is not so widely known is certain details of those beatings.

For example, the beatings were not conducted by any old low level serving Policemen.
Conlon was able to identify that one of the beatings was administered ( not overseen by, but actually administered ) by the Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey Police and by a policeman who was later identified as a leading member of the bomb squad.


Further, the treatment of Conlon went beyond just physical beating. It included being stripped naked, told exactly how his mother would be shot in Belfast on her way home from work if he didn’t confess, being taken out to a field ( still naked ) having a gun placed in his mouth and being told he was to be shot unless he confessed and so on.

Hill, Armstrong and others described similar treatment.


One person who came forward as no more than a witness but whose statement would support the alibi of one of the accused was subjected to horrific torture and was given a vivid description of how his wheelchair bound mother would die in a fire if he did not change his testimony.
Others who were questioned described having bags placed over their heads, suffocations and various other questioning techniques which were all clearly illegal.

It should also be noted that when the Guildford Four were initially brought in for questioning there were something like a further 40 people detained under the legislation for exactly the same crime and that initially 8 people were charged with the Guildford and Woolwich bombings.


The other four ( including Annie Maguire ) had the charges dropped against them some two and half months later despite spending time in custody as a result of being charged. What is frightening about this particular statistic is that as a result of a subsequent inquiry it was established that these people were charged and detained for all that time despite the fact that the police and the DPP did not have a single shred of evidence against any of them.
No confessions, no forensics, no eyewitness accounts as to their whereabouts …. Absolutely nothing.


Of course, all of this ignores the fact that the eventual supposed signed confessions extracted from the Guildford Four were pre prepared, pre written, edited, doctored and styled to suit the purposes of the investigating officers rather than reflect the true words of the suspects themselves.


At the subsequent trial, Senior Police Officers swore on oath that their notebooks and the signed confessions they prepared were contemporaneous records, yet years later various earlier drafts of the same confessions together with notes of amendments and changes were found in a file marked “Not to be shown to the defence”.


At least in this regard the portrayal in the Name of the Father movie was correct although very little else was.


However, this was the unacceptable face of the British police force in late 1974.
Yet, the disgraceful and reprehensible conduct of police officers and officials did not stop there or anything like it.


Carole Richardson had been 17 at the time. She had been living in a squat with Paddy Armstrong in a hedonistic drug fuelled existence which was about as far away from being an IRA active cell as you could imagine.


At the time of her arrest she was high on Barbiturates, a fact later not disputed by the crown, and while in custody she was subjected to violence and injected with Pethidine by a police surgeon immediately prior to making the statements later branded as a confession. For a number of years the Police Surgeon concerned denied that this had ever happened or he just failed to mention it when asked.


Without going into any details, someone who is on barbiturates and who is then given Pethidine is likely to be in no fit state to be signing any type of confession that makes any great sense.
However, the key part of the whole scenario as far as Richardson is concerned was that she had an alibi which was spoken to by numerous witnesses as she was out seeing a band at the exact time she was meant to have been planting bombs in Guildford.


As mentioned previously, one witness who supported her alibi in considerable detail walked into a police station in Newcastle voluntarily to offer his assistance. His testimony was that he had been in London on the night concerned and had gone to the same concert as Carole Richardson and when there he had talked at length to Carole, her friend and numerous others who were in the company. He was clear about the dates, the times and all the details. He did not see and had never met Conlon, Hill and Armstrong who were meant to have been with her at the time.
As a result of his decision to walk into the Police station he was detained, stripped, placed in a cell and questioned. However he was later released only to be re-arrested a few days later just as he finished work. He was taken all the way from Newcastle to Surrey where he was kept in custody for several days, beaten, had a bag placed over his head and told that he would be charged as an accessory, would be shot dead and his mother murdered if he testified on Richardson’s behalf. He was eventually released in Surrey after several days and given his train fare back to Newcastle.


Yet he did testify at the trial and repeated all of the above to the jury.


Equally, when it came to the Maguire seven there was detailed forensic evidence to consider.
Much of that evidence came from tests carried out by what was essentially a trainee forensic scientist who had been working for only 9 weeks at the time of carrying out the tests and who reached conclusions about what those tests showed.


The defence were able to produce their own forensic scientists with considerable years of experience who in turn poured scorn on the scientific conclusions reached saying that some of these were impossible. Not just capable of another interpretation, but de facto impossible! In addition, the lab which carried out the test was shown to have been absolutely rife with substances which could and probably did produce exactly the same results.


Not all of these substances had anything to do with explosives, but even explosive substances were widely found and had contaminated the tests.


In the case of the Guildford four the crown offered no forensic evidence whatsoever which linked the accused to the bombs, the pubs concerned, or any type of explosive or bomb making equipment at all. The supposed confessions contained no details of how to make or what went into any kind of bomb or explosive device.


Of course when it came to the Birmingham Six the roll of forensics was even more vital because even if it were accepted that the accused had been beaten, that still did not explain away the traces of nitro-glycerine which were found on the hands of some of the accused, and the prosecution were able to produce and rely on the testimony of Dr Frank Skuse whose position and authority were used to convince the jury that the tests carried out on the accused could only have produced the results they did if they had been handling the explosive.


The truth of the matter was that from the outset, there were home office forensic scientists who knew fine well that the same results could be obtained from touching many everyday items and that the forensic evidence for the crown was vastly over stated, misinterpreted, misleading and on occasion down right wrong.


By the time the Birmingham Six were released much was made of the fact that Skuse had been retired forcibly and was in disgrace, as other cases where he had given evidence had also been incorrectly decided and overturned by the court of appeal.


So, there we have it. A series of prosecution cases with forced confessions, bent coppers, badly beaten and drugged up accused, intimidated witnesses, poor forensics and a paranoid and prejudiced public from which to choose a jury.


Oh and judges who could barely conceal their prejudice and who poured scorn on the notion that police officers might be corrupt, have used violence, told lies and fabricated confessions.
No wonder the Guildford four, the Birmingham Six and the Maguire seven were all wrongly convicted.


However, all of that is too neat, too convenient, too much of a nice parcel and a suitable explanation as to why this treasured and much vaunted system failed, and it doesn’t in any way deal with the real reason behind the eventual acquittals nor the reaction of Government or the judiciary to such acquittals.


In the case of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, the prosecution was led and indeed dominated by the not inconsiderable figure of Sir Michael Havers QC MP.

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Havers was the very epitome of the legal establishment and the wheel of government. He was the son of a knighted High Court Judge, had been a QC since 1964 and the Conservative Member of Parliament for Wimbledon since 1970. He had served as the solicitor general from 1972 to 1974 and only left that position after the general election of February 1974 which resulted in a hung Parliament. When the Labour Party won the second general election of 1974, Havers was still at the heart of the legal establishment and a big cheese within the Department of Public Prosecution whom he would represent at the trials.


Further, it later became clear that the seemingly rushed Prevention of Terrorism Act which sailed through Parliament in a day, had been under secret discussion and draft for a period of at least a year and clearly could not have been considered without the expert input of the solicitor general – Michael Havers.


He became a member of the Privy Council in 1977. He served as Attorney-General for England and Wales and Northern Ireland from 1979 to 1987 under Margaret Thatcher, and in June 1987 he was appointed Lord Chancellor and consequently became a life peer as Baron Havers, of St Edmundsbury in the County of Suffolk.


In short, Michael Havers career at the heart of the legal, judicial, and government bodies spanned the entire period of the bombings all the way through to not long before the Guildford Four were released.


So Havers prosecuted both the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven. Both trials were presided over by Mr Justice Donaldson who personally requested that he be appointed to the bench for the Maguire case having heard the evidence in the Guildford Four case.
Why this request was granted is a mystery.


“Black Jack” Donaldson was the youngest High Court Judge in the land when he was appointed to the bench at the age of just 45 in 1966. His legal career was based on an expertise on contract and torts as opposed to any detailed knowledge and practice of the criminal law. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher appointed him as a Lord Justice of Appeal ( on the recommendation of the new Attorney General ( Sir Michael Havers ) and the Lord Chancellor ( Lord Hailsham ) , and so he was automatically appointed to the Privy Council. He replaced Lord Denning as Master of the Rolls in 1982, becoming the presiding officer of the civil division of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales.


Donaldson would court controversy with his handling of the Guildford Four and Maguire cases especially with his sentencing and his closing remarks in the Guildford case where he told the accused that it was his personal wish that the four had been charged with treason the penalty for which was still death.


Later, and in different circumstances, Sir Nigel Bridge QC would echo these sentiments when sentencing the Birmingham Six.


Donaldson would later face the wrath of members of Parliament when 181 MP’s signed a motion to have him removed from the judiciary because of his anti trade union and right wing leanings – he openly stated that he had always wanted to be a conservative MP.
I won’t go through all of the facets of the trial but for the purpose of this piece it is worth noting a few things.


First, the following facts should be considered:


There were over 100 separate and plain inconsistencies between the so called confessions made by the four accused of the Guildford bombings. Forget for the moment how those confessions were obtained, as a cumulative body of evidence read together they contradicted one another from start to finish on minor and major details. If you accepted one confession as the truth from start to finish it had to mean that the other three confessions were inaccurate in material aspects.


All suggestions that the accused had been beaten, threatened, drugged, or in any other way abused were rejected out of hand by the crown who insisted that the accused gave their statements voluntarily and freely. To this day that position has never changed.
Any alibis put forward by the accused were rubbished by the prosecution ( Havers ) in front of the jury.


Yet there were no eyewitnesses who put the accused in either of the pubs who were bombed – in fact there was no eyewitness accounts at all placing the accused in the general area making any supposed alibi evidence absolutely critical.


There was no forensic evidence linking the accused to the bombs , or the premises or to any type of explosive device or substance at all, and there was no evidence to link any of the accused with a supposed IRA cell.


However, the most important aspect of all is that in his opening remarks to the jury which were delivered in front of a public gallery which was filled with the nation’s press, Sir Michael Havers stood before the court and told the jury members and the judge that he would be producing eye witnesses, forensics and a whole host of other witnesses who would prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the four accused were the bombers.


Yet, Sir Michael Havers QC MP knew all along that he had no such witnesses to call and no such evidence to lead.


In short, from the very outset of the Guildford Four case – before any evidence at all was heard – the man at the top of the legal tree completely lied and misled the jury as to the evidence………. And at no time later in the proceedings did the judge ask him to explain himself for reasons which will become obvious.


The second thing to consider was that in his closing statements Justice Donaldson made it plain to the jury that for the defence allegations to be true there would have to have been the most astonishing, concerted and corrupt conspiracy by British Police officers the like of which had never been seen. Whilst he allowed the jury to decide for themselves on the veracity of the defence allegations, he made it perfectly plain that in his opinion what the defence was saying was practically impossible as it would mean that the Police had embarked on virtually unheard of criminal conduct.

Such a position would rock “The system” to the core.


There were various other actions of the judge which later came in for severe criticism but we will leave them for now.


In the end this entire trial was absolutely centred and focused on the confessions by the accused, how they were obtained, the veracity of the police against the allegations of the accused, and on those confessions alone the case turned.


Many years later, following an independent enquiry conducted by Sir Peter May, Both Sir Michael Havers and Lord Donaldson were severely criticised for their conduct in this trial despite the fact that many saw the May enquiry as no more than a Government cover up. The conduct of Havers and Donaldson was so out of order that they could not escape criticism even in a cover up.
Havers, merely dismissed the discrepancies between the confessions as the deliberate misleading tactics of a trained IRA cell – yet he offered no evidence to support this contention and throughout this was merely an allegation made by him with nothing to back it up. Further, Sir Michael offered no previous examples of such tactics in operation and offered no evidence linking any of the accused to the IRA—nothing.


Further, the prosecution and Havers in particular were criticised for not disclosing key evidence to the defence. This was evidence that related to the alibis of the accused and which supported the accused’s contention that they had been elsewhere at the time.


Basically, the four were convicted on the basis of confessions which were beaten out of them, which contradicted one another and in the absence of evidence which proved that they were elsewhere at the time. Yet that same evidence was in the hands of the prosecution. When added to the charge given by the judge where he implied that the defence contentions were scarcely credible, the process and conduct of the trial was improperly stacked against the accused from the outset.

So here is a question or two:


At what point should Michael Havers have started to investigate whether there was any possibility of what the accused was saying was true?


Is there any possibility that he knew that what the accused were saying re beatings and so forth were true?


How could he not know about the alibi witnesses which the prosecution failed to disclose?


Having lied to the jury at the very outset of the trial about what evidence he would and could produce, how far would Michael Havers go to conceal evidence or mislead the court and the defence as to what evidence the crown had?



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The Guildford Four trial had started on 16th September 1975 and it would be another four months before the Maguire Seven would be brought to court to be prosecuted by Havers.
Yet while the Guildford four had been in custody the IRA bombings had continued.
On 27th August another bomb went off in a Soldier’s pub in Surrey.


On November 12th a bomb was thrown into Scott’s Oyster Bar in the West End of London killing one victim.


On December 6th, The IRA active service unit returned to Scott’s but were spotted and ultimately chased through London with the situation ending in what became known as the Balcombe Street siege.


After 5 days the IRA unit were captured.


Crucially this was before the Maguires went on trial.


Even more crucially one member of the active service unit had been captured in July 1975 whilst in Manchester and it later came to light that the security forces had discovered the unit’s safe house as far back as February 1975 and were monitoring it. They had gained fingerprints and all sorts of other forensic evidence as a result. None of the forensics could be linked to The Guildford Four or the Maguire seven who were later said to be part of this same cell.
All of this was known to the Crown and Michael Havers and none of it was disclosed to the defence.


It would be January 1977 before the Balcombe Street gang came before a court but crucially from the moment they were taken into custody they began to provide hitherto unknown details about the Guildford and Woolwich bombings which the Guildford Four had just been convicted of.
Much of the interrogation of the Balcombe street gang was conducted by a senior figure from the Bomb Squad called Peter Imbert who would later go on to become the Commissioner of the Metroplitan Police.



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Imbert was able to get information from the IRA gang about the Guildford and Woolwich bombings which only the perpetrators could know. These facts could and indeed were verified by forensic scientists working for the prosecution and the home office.


Crucially, Havers’ office did not reveal any of this to the Maguire’s defence team and such information was deliberately withheld from them. Worse still, Home Office Pathologist Douglas Higgs was consulted and produced a report which said that the type of devices used by the Balcombe Street Gang matched exactly the type of bomb that had been used in the Woolwich bombing for which the Guildford four had already been convicted and sentenced. It was Higgs original evidence that the forensic information gathered after the Balcombe Street siege showed quite clearly that this gang were responsible for the Woolwich Bombing at least and probably Guildford too.


However Higgs later revealed that he was asked to take out all reference to the Woolwich bomb , was asked to radically change his statement and alter his opinion at the behest of the DPP, and when that series of correspondence and telephone calls were looked into it showed that one of the people who took the decision to request that the evidence be changed was Sir Michael Havers himself.


In short, within 3 months of the Guildford four being convicted senior British police and legal officers were in possession of information that cast a huge doubt on the conviction of Conlon, Hill, Armstrong and Richardson, and which would have played a huge factor in assisting the defence of the Maguires – remembering always that the Maguires were originally named by some of the Guildford Four allegedly under torture and that Annie Maguire had originally been charged with the bombings with the crown accepting ( eventually ) that they had had no evidence to base that charge on whatsoever.


If the Guildford Four were innocent then the Maguires could hardly be guilty, but worst of all if the Guildford Four were innocent then how did they come to confess? There was only one answer and that would be that as Lord Justice Donaldson had said there had been one of the greatest conspiracies in the history of English Criminal Justice.


And clearly there was.


However that conspiracy and cover up was now going to take an even more sinister turn because senior legal officers – the very bastions and protectors of the system swung into action and deliberately withheld that vital information from the defence teams of the Guildford Four and the Maguires.


As Lord Denning said, if it means that a few innocents had to go to prison to protect the system then so be it.


The Maguires were convicted.





When the Balcombe Street Gang came to trial in January 1977 their charge sheets had been reduced from 144 charges to 100 charges – with all references to the charges relating to the period from August to December 1974, before the Guildford Four arrests, being dropped.
Yet when they came to court, the Balcombe Street gang stood in the dock and spoke openly about their involvement in the Guildford and Woolwich Pub Bombings and Douglas Higgs, who had examined the pattern of throw-bomb attacks, admitted under oath that he had changed his original statement at the request of the police and the DPP so as to exclude the Woolwich Bomb in particular.


James Nevill, commander of the Scotland Yard Bomb Squad, admitted that the police had been instructed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Norman Skelhorn ( working with Havers ), to tell the scientists to remove from their evidence all references to Woolwich and Guildford. As soon as that evidence was brought out by the defence, the judge, Mr. Justice Cantley, barred all further questioning about the Guildford bombing as being irrelevant.


However, now that the Balcombe Street gang had spoken up in Court, the legal team for the Guildford Four had sensational new evidence to go to the Court of Appeal and ask that the conviction be quashed or at the very worst be sent for retrial.


However, if the trial of the four had been a disgrace on the part of the legal officers and the judge, the appearance before the appeal court would mark a new chapter as to how far the establishment would go to cover up a sordid and sorry judicial mess.


Once again Sir Michael Havers would appear for the Crown and this time there would be a bench of three judges lead by Lord Roskill.


Amazingly, Roskill and his fellow judges did not quash any conviction as being unsafe, nor did they order a retrial. Nor even did they deem the new evidence – The evidence of the Balcombe Street Gang, The Forensic scientists, the alibi witnesses and so on – as irrelevant. Instead, without hearing any of the evidence of the original trial, without hearing any evidence from anyone at all in person, they simply decided that the Balcombe Street Gang were lying and that throughout they had acted in concert with and alongside the Guildford Four and so the appeal was dismissed.


There were two things about this decision that are noteworthy above all others.
First it was a complete usurpation of the appeal court function and such an odd legal step to take that it was breath-taking in its arrogance. An appeal court normally does not judge on evidence at all and if there is new evidence to be considered then it refers the matter to a new trial. Either that or they deem that there is no new evidence at all worthy of consideration and so the appeal is dismissed. What they don’t do is actually “try” the evidence.


Yet in this case that is exactly what they did.


The second major thing to note is that the idea that the Balcombe Street Bombers had been acting with the Guildford Four and consequently the Maguires had not even been suggested by the crown when the Balcombe Street gang went to trial. It had also not been suggested at the trial of the Four or the Seven! This was a completely new idea, suggested by Havers in the court of Appeal with yet again not a single shred of evidence to back it up nor was anyone going to be given the chance to come to court and refute it by way of evidence.


Yet again, Sir Michael had simply stood and literally given evidence himself and backed up none of his allegations with any facts, witnesses or whatever. Nor did he provide any explanation as to why the crown had withheld the Balcombe Steet Gang’s evidence in the first place, nor an explanation for the order to the forensic scientists to alter their evidence to suit.


Appeal dismissed in the most unusual circumstances and without a by your leave.
However it would take more than a decade for the Government or any Legal figures to come along and criticise this situation and in the interim, The Guildford Four, The Maguires, The Birmingham Six and others remained in custody as a result of wrongful convictions.


With no further legal redress to follow, those who believed that the Guildford Four and others were innocent now had to rely on the media to stir up the issue as the legal system and those who ran it could not have cared less.


The system had been protected, had been seen to have worked. No police officers were shown to have lied, no beatings were admitted to have taken place ( in one of the court hearings- I forget which – one judge remarked that the alleged beatings suffered by the accused amounted to no more than what was to be expected when a prisoner was in custody- go figure that out ), no statements were seen to have been coerced or fabricated and all in the garden was rosy.
There was no further right of appeal. The verdicts stood. The legal system allowed no further means of investigation or review. The Four were banged up as were the Maguires and the Birmingham Six, and the key had been thrown away.


Then came the television.

However, before we get to the role played by the TV I want to go back to In the Name of the Father.


As I have said it is a movie which is as inaccurate as could be in depicting what happened in many respects to and on behalf of the Guildford Four. Despite its seven Oscar nominations, In the name of the father is one of the poorest bio pics it has been my misfortune to pay to see.
There are many reasons for my holding that opinion but chief among those reasons is the complete and utter absence from the movie of any portrayal of the significant role played by one Alistair Logan.




For those who do not know, Logan was a local solicitor in Guildford. An ordinary man with a mixed practice covering all areas of the law.


He first heard of the Guildford Four when he received a call from the legal aid clerk at Guildford Crown Court who informed him that he had been allocated to one of the “Guildford Bombers” under the legal aid scheme.


According to Logan, even the legal aid clerk had determined the guilt of the accused from the outset.


Logan did not want the case and advised the clerk accordingly suggesting that she ring round the other duty solicitors and have one of them appointed. Eventually, the clerk rang back to advise that there was no solicitor in the jurisdiction who wanted to touch the case and that she could not get anyone to represent the accused concerned.


Logan, felt awkward about this and so reluctantly agreed to represent the first accused. Top of the pile, in alphabetical order, was A for Armstrong – and that was how Alistair Logan became the solicitor to Paddy Armstrong the Guildford Bomber. He would also represent Carole Richardson.
Logan would remain the solicitor to Paddy Armstrong throughout his imprisonment and long after.
Alistair Logan came to believe in his clients’ innocence very quickly and was tireless in working on their behalf despite the severe adversity that the appointment would bring.


That adversity would include:

Having his office broken into by security forces.


Having staff members and colleagues leave as a result of intimidation and harassment- by the public and security forces.


Having his car covered in acid by a serving policeman.


Having a file kept on him by MI6 and being the subject of Government memos and e-mails which ensured that he would never be given any type of judicial position if he applied.


In return for representing Armstrong throughout he was threatened, lost friends and colleagues, lost clients, lost income, his health suffered, and was barely paid any kind of reasonable fee.
You may recall that when Paddy Armstrong was arrested he had been homeless and living in a squat. When he was released he was immediately homeless again – and was taken in by Alistair Logan and his family.


By the time the Guildford Four came to the appeal Court in 1977 Alistair Logan was not only convinced that they had been beaten, abused, tortured and fitted up, he was also convinced that “the system” and those who ran it were absolutely determined to keep these people in jail innocent or not.


Talking of the decision of Lord Roskiff and his colleagues in the appeal court in 1977, Logan said “The Appeal Court was a legal charade. The judges could not bring themselves to believe that terrorists ( The Balcombe Street Gang ) could tell the truth and the police could tell lies. I got the distinct impression that the final judgement was written beforehand. The answer was no, and the judges worked back to find how they could get there. It was such an intellectually dishonest exercise I do not believe anyone reading it today could believe it was an honest judgement.”
Accordingly with no further appeal or legal route available, Logan and others sought out the press and tried to get them to agitate on behalf of the four. This would be a long hard road.
It is hard to believe what happened next and with all due respect to Hollywood they missed a trick by not doing their research or revealing the whole truth.


There was a small department in the Home Office whose job it was to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice. A considerable amount of their work, it is said, was devoted to parking offences. However Sir David Napley, a past president of the Law Society, at one point gave evidence to a Commons Select Committee, to the effect that this department had never once ‘as a result of its own investigations felt able to recommend a pardon’.

Not once!


After the 1977 appeal, Logan went to the media and as a result a few media voices took the matter up – David Martin in The Leveller, Gavin Esler and Chris Mullin in the New Statesman and David McKittrick in the Belfast Telegraph – but the four were scarcely mainstream news.
Then in 1980 the BBC Northern Ireland programme, Spotlight, featured the death in prison of Gerry Conlon’s father Giuseppe. Giuseppe Conlon was convicted with the Maguire family in the explosives case linked to Guildford, another case for which the evidence has always been seriously suspect.

The BBC’s Panorama devoted part of a programme to the shortcomings of forensic evidence and linked poor forensics to the doubts hanging over the Maguire case. But it was not until 1984 – almost 10 years after the original convictions – that the first networked TV documentary to consider any of the cases was transmitted. It was made by Grant McKee for Yorkshire Television’s First Tuesday and considered the Maguire/Conlon case in full.
The programme was called Aunt Annie’s Bomb factory.

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During the making of ‘Aunt Annie’s Bomb Factory’ on the Maguire case, the conviction grew among the YTV production team that Guildford had been an appalling miscarriage of justice. Logan and a journalist called Tom McGurk in particular lobbied for another programme to be made about the Guildford Four and the shocking way “the system” had treated them.
First Tuesday went on to produce a film about Guildford: ‘Guildford Time Bomb'(ITV July 1986). It made no claim to present new evidence as all of the facts spoke for themselves. The day after transmission the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, called for an internal inquiry which was to be a “private” as opposed to “public” exercise: it was back to the Home Office.

For whatever reason everything went quiet.


And the Attorney General at the time was………….. Sir Michael Havers.


However, pressure was now growing for an open enquiry as clearly things were not right here.
In the wake of the Yorkshire TV film and of Robert Kee’s book Trial and Error that followed it, the 1974 Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees, the 1974 Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins ( who of course had introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act which had allowed the prolonged detention of the four ), Law Lords Devlin and Scarman joined forces with Cardinal Hume and together, they persistently lobbied for a review of the case. Lords Scarman and Devlin were very critical of the court processes that had been followed especially in the appeal court.
By this time other miscarriages of justice had come to light and the judiciary was under severe pressure as case after case was referred to them as being potential miscarriages within the system.

One case in particular is worthy of inclusion at this juncture.


Anthony Mycock had been convicted of a robbery in Manchester which the BBC television programme Rough Justice argued had never occurred at all. The Rough Justice programme had begun to highlight fatal flaws in the system and was looking at hundreds of cases many of which alleged police brutality.


On December 5, 1985 Mycock’s appeal came before the appeal court which was being presided over by Lord Lane.


Lane had been appointed to the appellate bench shortly after the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, and just as Lord Donaldson , his appointment came upon the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham and the Attorney General and future Lord Chancellor Sir Michael Havers.


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Lane would go on to become the Lord Chief Justice for England and Wales in due course.
In the case of Mycock, Lane quashed his conviction based on the evidence adduced by the BBC reporters saying that the evidence showed that the conviction was not safe. However, speaking from the bench Lord Lane delivered a broadside to the BBC, the producer of the programme and the programme’s chief reporter declaring the programme to be meddlesome, and one that employed dreadful bullying and underhand tactics in getting the evidence in the first place.
The message was clear, TV journalists were a pest, a threat to the system and pressure should be brought on the BBC to get rid of this type of “entertainment”.


The BBC capitulated and the producer and reporter were sacked.


TV evidence was not to be welcomed in the appeal court.


After the Yorkshire TV broadcast, pressure continued on the Government to look at the cases of the Guildford Four, The Maguire seven and the Birmingham Six.


In January 1987 Douglas Hurd announced that the case of the Birmingham six would be reopened, but that for whatever reason Guildford case and that of the Maguires would not.
Yorkshire TV then went into overdrive and In March 1987 First Tuesday transmitted a second programme, A Case that Won’t Go Away. They had found and interviewed a new alibi witness for Paul Hill, and unearthed expert opinions that threw doubt on the confessions of Carole Richardson.


The most shocking thing about the expert opinions concerned was that they had been commissioned some considerable time before……….. by the Home Office itself ( the very department that had never issued a pardon as a result of its own efforts ) and crucially someone had determined that their contents should never be revealed or published!
Once again an internal inquiry was ordered but eventually this was changed to a full blown Police investigation to be conducted by the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police.
It was this police investigation that unearthed the fact that a whole duty roster for Guildford Police station had been fabricated complete with false signatures and entries. The same investigation uncovered the real rosters, the draft confessions that supposedly didn’t exist and a whole host of other evidence which showed that very senior police officers had lied and conspired to fit up the Guildford Four and that numerous officers of the law had lied under oath and committed perjury.
According to Alistair Logan, between 38 and 45 different police officers were involved in committing perjury in the Guildford case alone.


Of greatest importance was the fact that the Avon and Somerset force were able to reveal that the confession of Paddy Armstrong was a complete fabrication made up by the Surrey police. The handwritten ”contemporaneous notes” that British police must take during interrogations turned out to be copied from a typescript that had been distributed to several officers as a model or style.


In 1985, the first of several World in Action programmes casting doubt on the convictions of the Birmingham Six was broadcast. In 1986, Chris Mullin, who would later go on to be a Labour MP and minister, published his book entitled Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings. Mullins set out a detailed case supporting the men’s claims that they were innocent. It included his claim to have met some of those who were actually responsible for the bombings, claiming the forensics evidence to be faulty and questionable and of course alleged that any confessions were beaten out of the accused by police officers from the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad — a police department who had started to come under ever increasing scrutiny.


Once again, The Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd MP, referred the case back to the Court of Appeal.


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Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane presided over what was (at six weeks) the longest criminal appeal in English legal history. The Appeal Court judgment on the Birmingham Six, given on January 28, 1988, adopted all the key parts of the Crown case, dismissed defence witnesses as unreliable, and upheld the convictions. Lane concluded by sending a message to the Home Secretary: “As has happened before in References by the Home Secretary to this court, the longer this hearing has gone on the more convinced this court has become that the verdict of the jury was correct.” This implied rebuke and invitation not to refer any more questioned cases was criticised by campaigners. Lane initially refused leave to appeal to Winston Silcott, convicted of the murder of Keith Blakelock in the midst of a strong campaign of vilification from tabloid newspapers. In his findings he concluded that there was “no lurking doubt” in spite of the flimsiness of the prosecution case. Silcott’s conviction for the Blakelock murder was ultimately quashed in 1991.
It was against this background and following upon the findings of Avon and Somerset Police in the case of the Guildford Four that the appeal court convened once again to consider the legal appeal of four people jailed for the Guildford and Woolwich Pub Bombings.


Many will recall the dramatization in the name of the father movie which again was wholly inaccurate.


The truth of what happened that day, and the truth that remains is far more shocking.
To this day it has never been accepted by the crown or by any Government department that the accused were beaten, threatened, stripped naked, held at gunpoint or in any way tortured.
It has never been accepted that alibi witnesses were similarly treated or had their family members threatened.


The evidence of the accused and other witnesses as to what happened within Guildford Police station and elsewhere has never been accepted by any court or by the prosecution.
When the court convened on 20th October 1989, Alistair Logan said that Lord Lane took his seat wearing an expression which suggested that there was a bad smell or something distasteful in the room.


This time, there would be no appeal hearing as such, because at the last minute the crown had decided to capitulate and chose not to oppose the appeals of the Guildford Four.
Having been faced with the findings of the Avon and Somerset Police they had no option but to accept that the convictions were unsafe. Yet by collapsing their opposition, they also avoided the possibility of even more damning evidence coming before the court and worse still being made public.


Further, the tactic of collapsing the crown case prevented the findings of the Avon and Somerset Force being used to support the allegations of the accused about the where and when of the beatings that were administered.


Lord Lane’s Judgement offers no apology to the accused for wrongful imprisonment, the consequences of fabricating evidence or the failure of the system, or for anything that may have happened to them.


I produce it in full at the end of this article for the reader to make of it what they will.
As we have seen The Birmingham Six were granted a further appeal (their third) in March 1991, when more evidence established that the police evidence at their trial had been fabricated. The Director of Public Prosecutions announced before the appeal was held that he no longer considered their convictions safe and satisfactory. Lane did not preside over the appeal which formally cleared them. Their successful appeal led to calls for Lane to resign, including a hostile editorial in The Times and a motion in the House of Commons signed by 140 Members of Parliament. These, and other cases where convictions were overturned, blighted the end of Lane’s tenure as Lord Chief Justice.


When The Guildford Four were released Gerry Conlon burst out the front door and was determined to speak to the press.



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Paul Hill was to remain in custody in connection with a murder he had been convicted of in Belfast, however this conviction was also quashed on the basis that it had been secured on fabricated evidence.


Carole Richardson could not face coming out before the media. Her prison ordeal was over and she just wanted to disappear.


Paddy Armstrong would have loved to have gone out the front door with Gerry but he didn’t. He had been Carole Richardson’s boyfriend when they had been arrested and he felt obliged to help her through the final moments as she left court. Accordingly the two young lovers who had been arrested and wrongly imprisoned together 16 years before both left by the back door with Paddy supporting Carole until she got away in a taxi


As mentioned above, Paddy had no relatives, was homeless and spent the night in the home of his solicitor.


Gerry Conlon was given the princely sum of £34.90 before he left the court and was told simply by a court officer to “go”.


There was no counselling, no medical help, nothing.


Later Gerry would admit to dreadful hallucinations saying he saw Giuseppe sitting on the couch wearing prison pyjamas.


For years Conlon claimed that there was a whispering campaign conducted from Westminster saying that although the conviction had been quashed the four had still been guilty.
This seemed to be confirmed by Armstrong who says he was questioned about his movements for several years afterwards and in 1994 he was denied a US visa to take a group of inner-city children to the World Cup. The visa was granted later, following intervention by a friend of Paddy’s with contacts in the embassy and threats of going to the press. Not long after their release, Paddy went to see Gerry for a weekend and ended up staying with him for a year. The pair later travelled around the world, making up for lost time and “getting the prison out of them.”
Paul Hill of course went to the states and married one of the Kennedy’s while Carole Richardson eventually married, had a daughter, lived away from the limelight in complete obscurity but sadly died in 2013 from Cancer.


Paddy Armstrong only found out about her death after she had been buried and says he remains guilty about Carole to this day.


Armstrong now lives in Dublin with his wife and two children. He apparently bears no grudges against anyone about his time in prison which is remarkable. However, in interview he has said that for years he was wary of everyone and anyone. In a pub he would always sit facing the door so that he could see everyone and anyone who came in or left.


Writing in 1986 from her prison cell Carole Richardson wrote, ‘I think that is what hurts most .. nothing is different now to what it was 10 or 12 years ago. The evidence, or should I say lack of it, is still the same. All that’s changed is the people telling it. I don’t know. Unfair isn’t a strong enough word for what I feel about it all, but I can’t think of another one.’


Her sense of complete and utter futility is self evident.


As a consequence of the release of the Guildford Four a criminal investigation was launched into the activities of the Surrey Police. A judicial inquiry into the whole affair was ordered and this was headed by Sir John May – a retired Appeal Court Judge. Given that he was in part investigating what had occurred before the very same appeal court he sat in, legal scholars and editorial commentators urged and suggested at the time that a substantial reform of the British legal system – meaning The English legal system — should take place: at the least they called for a new, more independent Court of Appeal and if possible, the adoption of a Bill of Rights to safeguard individual liberties.


On 3rd October 1992 Sir John May issued the second part of his report into the cases of the Guildford Four and the Maguire seven the first part having been delivered in 1989.
To say that some of it is shocking is an understatement.


It was a mixed bag which pleased no one as it reached some conclusions that were hard to fathom.


However, what it does show, is that even after the Avon and Somerset Police inquiry and all of the pieces of evidence gathered by May and others the DPP and the Court of Appeal were never going to accept that certain things did indeed happen.


May alleged that the Maguire case should go back to the Court of Appeal and that the convictions should be quashed on four quite different grounds, including scientific grounds re the forensic evidence presented at the original trial and at least two grounds regarding the conduct of the trial itself.


The DPP effectively rejected the majority of May’s findings and continued to oppose the quashing of the convictions until the very last minute.


The appeal hearing did not commence until 7th May 1991 and only once they were in court did the DPP announce that they were not seeking to have the convictions sustained and even then they only did so on one of the grounds suggested by Sir John May – and that ground was that the crown had not disproved that the hands of the accused concerned had innocently been contaminated with Nitro Glycerine. Basically the crown accepted that the traces of Nitro found on the hands could have been caused by their washing their hands on a lab towel!


The significance of this of course was that the Crown was maintaining that the accused did show positive traces of Nitro Glycerine on their hands and did not accept that the same results could have been caused by various other substances. In other words the original charges and trial had been justified even if it now turned out that the convictions had to be quashed because of accidental contamination.


May was scathing in his report saying he could not reconcile the findings of the court at all and went on to suggest that had the Attorney General’s office had before them all the information that he had before him then he had no doubt that the Maguires would never have been charged with anything at all in his opinion.


The problem with that conclusion is that in many respects the Solicitor General’s office , as it was called at the time, did have all that evidence and still proceeded with a prosecution while hiding that evidence from the court and the defence!


Further, he recommended that an independent body be set up to look into alleged miscarriages of justice. As has been mentioned before, this function had been the responsibility of a Home Office department who had never once recommended a pardon for anything.


However, May would go on to deliver his final report in July 1994 by which time all the accused had been released. In the final report he stated that whilst there had been individual errors on the part of Policemen and certain unnamed officials, he did not think the system was fundamentally flawed and then went on to reject any suggestion of any deliberate suppression of evidence despite documents being found marked “do not show to the defence” and various versions of what can only be described as falsified confessions.


May added that in his opinion there had been widespread criticism of the criminal justice system over recent miscarriages of justice including these cases and that such criticism was ‘undesirable’. He also attacked the ‘mythology’ surrounding the case, which had led to ‘significant misrepresentation’, and singles out the film In the Name of the Father as ‘misleading’.
Without saying that any of the Guildford Four or the Maguire Seven had been beaten, threatened or in any way mal treated, May suggested that jurors should be warned that people in custody can make false confessions and that police are often tempted to force confessions out of those against whom they have intelligence but no other evidence.


However, the most controversial finding of the former appeal court judge came when he stated there was no evidence of a conspiracy by anyone to convict the Guildford Four. The report said it was impossible to determine after such a time, whether police used violence or falsified their confessions. Sir John May then added that given the circumstances of bombings in Guildford, Woolwich and Birmingham, he would have been surprised if the police had not adopted a “hostile approach”.


Considering the fabrication by the Surrey police officers of the confessions and the falsifying of records together with clear acts of perjury which led to the quashing of the convictions by the Court of Appeal, May’s conclusions are incredible. However, if that was not bad enough for some reason Sir John May chose to add the following statement into the body of his report.


“A jury’s verdict of not guilty is not a positive declaration of factual innocence. Similarly, a judgement of the Court of Appeal quashing a conviction does not constitute a finding that the appellant did not commit the offence,’


The report largely exonerated the Metropolitan police of accusations that they failed to investigate the claims by two of the IRA gang arrested after the 1977 Balcombe Street siege that they were involved in the Woolwich bombings.


Yet the report strongly criticised the decision by the prosecution ( Michael Havers ) at the Guildford trial not to disclose to the defence a statement supporting Mr Conlon’s alibi and the failure by Crown lawyers and officials in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to disclose forensic evidence linking the Woolwich bombing with other bombings that occurred after the arrest of the Four. You will recall that this was specifically suppressed at the request of Havers and the Deputy Director of the DPP.


Further, May went on to speak directly about the threat to the witness who came forward to support Carole Richardson’s alibi at the very outset. Surrey police were castigated for twice arresting a man who came forward to support the alibi of Ms Richardson. May specifically finds that police tried to destroy the alibi, rather than investigate its truth.


Alistair Logan said at the time ‘Four people spent 15 years in jail for an offence they didn’t commit and no one really knows after reading that report why that happened.’ Chris Mullin, by then the MP for Sunderland South, who had campaigned on behalf of the four was blunt in his opinion when he said: ‘It is a report that will satisfy only those responsible for creating this mess in the first place.’


The Late Gerry Conlon was always the most vociferous of the Guildford Four.


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Until his death he was quite plain about what had happened to him and the effects of the threats, beatings, imprisonment and torture.


He was described as being visibly haunted by terrible memories that wouldn’t stay in the past and injustices which he felt continued even into the present.


A few years ago he gave an interview to the Guardian where he explained that he was angry that nobody was ever punished for their wrongful imprisonment.


Three retired Surrey detectives were accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice as a result of the Guildford Four case – all three were acquitted with the judge delivering a closing address to the jury that had to be heard to be believed.


No serving officer of the Surrey force was disciplined or demoted despite the findings of the Avon and Somerset force.


Conlon was also convinced that it was not just the police that had lied in an attempt to get him and the others convicted. He believes the conspiracy to jail innocent people went right to the top.
“The Government knew, right from the start, that we were innocent. They knew we had nothing to do with the IRA, but they didn’t care. That’s why they have a 75-year immunity order on our case. Because they want all the people involved to be dead before they release our files.”


Despite the conviction being quashed on the grounds that it was unsafe, and despite all the writings about the case ( both official and unofficial ) Conlon believed that the cloud of suspicion was allowed to remain as a result of the words of Sir John May and others, and as a consequence he was denied access to psychiatric treatment. It was not until 2007 that he began getting regular therapy, and even then only one hour a week. That undoubtedly helped, but it was far too little, coming far too late, for someone who suffered trauma on the level that he had.
Gerry Conlon explained to the Guardian:


“I have what they call a disassociation problem: something comes in to my head and I’m back in prison. I’m back in Wakefield, being tortured… hands behind my back, gun in my mouth, it doesn’t go away.


“The reason I took drugs and alcohol was because I couldn’t deal with what my mind was projecting. To get some relief from the nightmares, day and night.


“But then the nightmares started breaking through with a sledge hammer, and once that happened it was a question of giving up the drugs and fighting to get professional help.”
“I’d spent months in solitary, in the dark. I’d been beaten, had people defecating in my food, putting glass in my food. I’d seen people murdered. Yet I had to tell my family they were treating me well.


“When you come out you find the relationship with your family during your time inside was built on falsehoods. I didn’t know that my mother and my sisters were being strip searched and abused when they came to see me. You can’t calculate the devastating effect it has on your family.”
In 2005 the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven finally got a personal apology from Tony Blair. Conlon told the then Prime Minister that the apology would only mean something if it came with more help for the victims.


Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six has said that the appeal court and the Government do not know how to spell the word justice.


Hill described how the six were “tortured and framed” on arrest, beaten, subjected to mock executions, threatened with being thrown from a high building or a car on the motorway, and burnt with cigarettes; All by the West Midland Serious Crime Squad.


The men’s homes were the targets of petrol bombs, and nooses were hung on their gates; their families fled, some changed their names, one wife had to move 17 times, and put her children into care for their own safety.


By the time they were released, the arguments and claims of the Birmingham Six had been considered by no less than 18 different judges all of whom said that the decision of the original jury must stand and any new evidence should be rejected.


In 1985, a series of complaints about the West Midlands crime squad prompted an inquiry by the Metropolitan Police force. It was decided that the subsequent report, called the Hay report, should never be made public.


Nonetheless, the report criticised the squad’s interviewing techniques, failure to properly use pocket books and the inordinate amount of time that officers were allowed to remain with the elite unit.


Despite the report nothing was done and the unit remained intact and unchecked.
The complaints continued and a succession of the squad’s cases was thrown out of court amid allegations of fabricated confessions. Many of these were exposed because of the coincidental emergence of a vital new forensic technique, the Esda (Electrostatic Document Analysis) test which revealed that officers were making up statements.


Up until 1986 at least, members of the 25-strong squad would write out false confessions and force the suspects to sign them.


On 14 August 1989, the force’s Chief Constable, Geoffrey Dear, disbanded the squad, and an investigation was set up by the independent Police Complaints Authority and conducted by West Yorkshire Police. The PCA investigation looked at 97 complaints against the squad made between January 1986 and August 1989. Ethnic minority complaints were disproportionately high, with 35 registered by African-Caribbeans and eight by Asians. Many of the earlier complaints were made by people of an Irish Background.


Between March 1990 and October 1991 the inquiry passed a succession of files to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider criminal charges against some of the officers concerned.
As mentioned above, The Birmingham Six were released on 14th March 1991 when their convictions were deemed unsafe.


In May 1992, Dame Barbara Mills, Director of Public Prosecutions at the time, decided that there was “insufficient evidence to prosecute” a single officer from the squad.


The Police Complaints Authority’s final report was published in January 1993.


The official report made no mention of the “plastic bagging” and other torture techniques referred to by the many victims of the squad whose convictions have since been quashed by the Court of Appeal. Nor did it highlight the repeated appearance in interview notes of key “confessional” phrases such as “That bastard’s really put me in it” and “You’re spot on”.


The PCA recommended disciplinary charges against only seven officers. A further 10 officers would have faced charges but they had already retired, it was announced.


In the event, just four of the squad’s officers – Detective Superintendent John Brown, Detective Constable Colin Abbotts, Detective Chief Inspector Bob Goodchild and Detective Constable Tony Adams – were punished for minor disciplinary offences.


At the time of writing 62 appeals against conviction in which it has been claimed that the West Midland serious Crime Squad fabricated evidence and essentially tortured the accused have been successful. All 62 had spent time in Prison.


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The case of Martin Foran, an Irishman, who was jailed in 1978 and again in 1985 in relation to separate crimes he has always said he did not commit was remitted to the Court of Appeal in January of this year. Foran has always claimed that in both cases he was “fitted up” by police officers of the West Midland Serious Crime Squad.


On April 15th 1989, prior to the disbanding of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, 96 people lost their lives in what became known as the Hillsborough Disaster.
Subsequently, the investigation into what happened at Hillsborough that day was handed to …. The West Midlands Police Force.


According to the account on one of the websites which seeks to uncover the truth about what really happened at Hillsborough, one West Midlands officer commented that they had been sent in to “do a job” and to “restore confidence in the Police”.


One of the key players in the enquiry was Detective Superintendent Stan Beechey who was constantly by the side of the South Yorkshire Coroner, Dr Stefan Popper throughout the course of the inquests.


Stan Beechey was the former head of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad. It was under his leadership that a culture of fabricating evidence, altering notebooks and committing perjury was allowed to flourish. When he became involved in the Hillsborough case he had de facto been suspended from operational duties by the Chief Constable of the West Midlands force who later admitted that Beechey should have been nowhere near the Hillsborough investigations.
A complaint about Beechey had been made to the then Police Complaints Authority by George Tomkins, who alleged he had been “fitted up” by West Midlands police for an armed robbery he did not commit. Tomkins spent 17 months on remand in Birmingham’s Winson Green prison before he was acquitted.


In April 1993, Tomkins took out a private prosecution against Beechey, three other police officers and a DPP lawyer, accusing them of perverting the course of justice. The police officers’ cases were committed to the crown court.


In 1995 the DPP discontinued the prosecutions.


Tomkins took out a civil claim, suing the West Midlands police for malicious prosecution. On 18 March 1996, the force agreed, without admitting any wrongdoing by any officer, to pay Tomkins £40,000 compensation, and £70,000 for his legal costs.


In August 1989 Beechey’s official title was Deputy Head of The West Midlands CID. It should be noted that Beechey was never charged with any offence or disciplined in any way in relation to the activities of the West Midlands Serious Crime squad. He has since retired.


In 1990, the official inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster, the Taylor Report, concluded that “the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control.” The findings of the report resulted in the elimination of standing terraces at all major football stadiums in England, Wales and Scotland.


On the 20th anniversary of the disaster, government minister Andy Burnham called for the police, ambulance and all other public agencies to release documents that had not been made available to Lord Justice Taylor in 1989.


What strikes me as odd about even this step is that there should have been any documents or statements that had not been made available to Taylor in the first place. No matter how it arose, or why, the very fact that Government seemed to “know” of the existence of documents which had not been made available to a judicial inquiry is disconcerting and does not suggest that we should have unfettered confidence in the inquiry system.


As Gerry Conlon pointed out, the papers surrounding the trial of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven have been deemed unfit for public scrutiny for 75 years. Should it eventually prove to be the case that when those papers are made public they are shown to contain material which was not made available to the defence, the courts and even Sir John May – what exactly is the point of courts, tribunals, judicial inquiries and the rule of law?


Following the call for all Hillsborough papers to be made available the Government also set up The Hillsborough Independent Panel to investigate the Hillsborough disaster itself and gave the panel the remit to oversee the disclosure of thousands of documents about the disaster and its aftermath.


The Panel’s eventual findings concluded that 164 material witness statements had been altered. Of those, 116 were amended to remove or change negative comments about the involvement of South Yorkshire Police. It also discovered that South Yorkshire Police had performed blood alcohol tests on the victims, some of them children, and ran computer checks on the national police database in an attempt to “impugn their reputation”. Various civilian witnesses and even certain police officers would reveal that they had felt “leant on” by the police officers conducting the original investigation.


These matters, including the altered statements, were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission who then found that a further 55 Police Officers had altered their statements.


All of the inquest verdicts into the death of the victims were ultimately quashed by the court of appeal due to the presentation of false and altered evidence by police officers and on the basis that there had been a series of mini inquests where police officers had summarised the evidence of eye witnesses rather than those witnesses concerned giving evidence in person. New inquests began on 31st March this year.


At the end of the proceedings the coroner who issued the original verdicts publicly thanked the officers from the West Midlands Police Force in helping to gather evidence and for their assistance in the inquests in general.


The independent Police Complaints Commission has been given a separate and specific remit to investigate the conduct of the West Midlands Police Officers in the whole affair.
That investigation continues.


A private prosecution was brought against Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield of the South Yorkshire Police Force and another officer, Bernard Murray. Prosecutor Alun Jones QC told the court that Duckenfield gave the order to open the gates so that hundreds of fans could be herded on to the already crowded terraces at the stadium. Mr Jones stated that minutes after the disaster, Duckenfield “deceitfully and dishonestly” told senior FA officials that the supporters had forced the gate open. Duckenfield admitted he had lied in certain statements regarding the causes of the disaster. Other officers, including Norman Bettison, were accused of manipulating evidence. Bettison was later appointed Chief Constable of Merseyside in controversial circumstances. The prosecution ended on 24 July 2000, when Murray was acquitted and the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case of Duckenfield.




On 26 July 2000, the judge refused the prosecution’s application for a re-trial of Duckenfield.
Police disciplinary charges against Duckenfield were abandoned when he retired on health grounds and because he was unavailable, it was decided it would be unfair to proceed with disciplinary charges against Bernard Murray. Duckenfield took medical retirement on a full police pension.




There are many good and honest people who work in the areas of law enforcement, crown prosecution and within the court system in general. In many respects they are under resourced, under paid and under a great deal of stress and pressure not least the pressure brought by the politicians who sit above them in the chain of command and who can and have manipulated the operation of the system, and the people who work within it, for their own ends..
In particular there are many good police men and women who perform the job of policing honestly, fairly and with integrity. Equally, there is clear evidence of bad policing, political policing and policing which serves to further the particular interests of the police force rather than the public or the enforcement of the law itself. In this article, such policing has been shown to be evident in the mass actions of police forces in Surrey, The West Midlands and Yorkshire — three geographically disparate areas under completely different commanders and controllers.

All are supposedly answerable to the Met and it can only be assumed that over the years the Met, under various commanders, completely failed in any overseeing function.


However, no matter what force a constable, Sargent or inspector serves with, the notion that simply because a human being is a member of the police force then his or her word given in evidence should carry any more weight than that of say a bricklayer, a nurse, an insurance clerk or someone who is unemployed is nonsense.
Yet that is the point of view expressed previously by a whole series of judges.


Further, there are those like Denning who have gone on to state that the preservation of the system of justice is effectively more important than the odd rogue result.


Well, how many rogue results does it take to establish that de facto the system, as currently operated, is not worth defending and preserving at all?


Since the days of the Guildford Four and the Maguire seven there have been considerable reforms in relation to the running of the appeal court and the arrival of the criminal case review boards in Scotland and England have been a major step forward. Further, there has been the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights although there are those within the Westminster Parliament who would seek to remove the convention, and the safeguards it supposedly brings, from the law of the land.


Of course the very setting up of the case review bodies, and the fact that the home office had never once been able to recommend a pardon to anyone proclaiming a miscarriage of justice, actually tells you that the system of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s just did not work.


However, that only takes matters so far because again any such board and its officers are wholly dependent on being able to have clear access to all of the evidence, all of the notes and all of the records held by bodies such as the police. If it is the case that the police continue to withhold and doctor the evidence such as at Hillsborough and the the trials mentioned above, then all the boards, inquiries and trials are effectively neutered, usurped and completely pointless.


Even beyond the histories discussed above ( think plebgate, Levinson, etc etc ) there seems to be a culture within policing ( In England at least ) whereby it has been acceptable for police officers to determine what records and what evidence will be made available to the courts, the inquiries, and the legal representatives of those who are directly involved and effected by this “system”. Further, if necessary that evidence will be doctored, rehearsed, amended or falsified.


Worse still, is that when officers of the law are shown to have completely usurped the system, there is very little evidence that they are held to account, brought before the courts and tried like any other normal citizen. There is even very little to suggest that they have in the past been properly disciplined by the police themselves or the independent bodies set up to ensure that complaints are dealt with properly and fairly.


This too, is a complete failure of the much vaunted system.


People in every walk of life will make errors in the course of their job, and whilst I would be first to condemn anything approaching a witch hunt, the fact remains that many have no faith in “the system” and as can be seen above there may well be good reason for that.



When it comes to the legal profession, again many have a jaundiced view of lawyers of all sorts whether they be criminal practitioners, corporate lawyers or even country practitioners. Many view judges to be aloof, detached and essentially part of the “establishment” with an inherent bias towards supporting the police in any conflict with the public.


The justification for that view has been repeatedly enforced by judicial decisions and reports which make no sense to the man on the Clapham omnibus to use another of Lord Denning’s most famous sayings. The inquiries and appeal decisions in the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Maguire cases made no sense to the ordinary man and many lawyers including retired Law Lords openly cried “fix” when reading them.


There are many hard working lawyers in all fields of the law and in the criminal courts they can be found working for both prosecution and defence. Many are not as handsomely rewarded as the public would think.


However, when such people are trained, have practised and are experienced in the law, the public would like to think that they bring that experience and expertise into the court in every case and that the court, through the judge or judges, will allow them to use their skills, preparation and knowledge in a fair and proper fashion. However, when judges and government departments fail in their duties, when they deliberately go out of their way to influence and and bend the proceedings immorally and improperly, then all the effort training and skill of the genuine legal practitioner is completely and utter wasted.


People like Alistair Logan and Gareth Pierce should be considered as national treasures rather than have their offices broken into, their phones bugged, and their cars damaged by those who simply seek to use the law for their own ends with a view to getting the “desired result” as opposed to seeing that justice is actually done.
With the court system it is necessary to have judges. Thankfully they are no longer simply appointed on the whim of Government but there is still an air of being part of the club to become a judge or once you become one. As can be seen from the tone of the judgement freeing the Guildford Four, which is repeated below, the language used by a judge when conveying a decision which says the law is on your side can seem to say one thing on the face of it but convey another message altogether. Judges are not there to appease public opinion or further government policy or to be part of any club or legal clique, they are there to apply the law for  good or bad. They are most certainly not there to opine ” I wish you had been prosecuted for this or that so that I could sentence you differently” — that is clear evidence of judicial, legal and personal arrogance.


Lord Lane released the Guildford Four with great reluctance indeed.


Lastly, I started to write this article because of news coverage of recent events.


Newspapers, the internet and the television is awash with rumour and stories concerning the potential suppression of evidence concerning a paedophile ring which ran at the very heart of Government in the 80’s. Any search on the internet will lead you to allegations which name very well known people who have been said to be involved. The allegations include the names of ministers of state, MP’s, celebrities and so on.


The Government has, in time honoured fashion, called for a judicial inquiry to investigate whether it is just possible that the DPP, the then Attorney General Sir Michael Havers, and other government “people” could have covered up the existence of a whole series of crimes, suppressed evidence, and failed to bring the perpetrators of crime to book simply because they were part of “the establishment” or “ the system”. I predict that all sorts of information will come out of the woodwork in the coming weeks as there is political mileage in the issue and we are none too far away from a general election. Yet again, memos, minutes, notes and reports will surface despite having been hidden away and kept secret for years by people in positions of responsibility who supposedly act in the public interest.


It is very hard to accept that in other incidences Sir Michael Havers did not withhold documents and evidence whilst serving as a government officer and acting as crown counsel. It is very hard to accept that in other cases he did not usurp his position as an officer of court and as a government minister. It is very hard to accept that he did not, on occasion, use his position to further a purpose which had nothing to do with the proper practice of the law and the preservation of justice.


While I know nothing of the details of the crimes or the people supposedly involved, I think history now shows that the suppression of such evidence in the 1980’s is entirely possible as it has been shown to have happened before — time and time again.


No doubt someone with a well known name will be fed to the wolves and there will be a flurry of activity to produce some headline grabbing action or revelation which will be intended to deflect anyone from asking any awkward questions about whether “the system” has let us down yet again?


This is not something new or anything that the enquiring mind should be surprised at. Only this morning, The BBC is carrying a report featuring a retired police officer who served with the Met who says he was removed from office when he began to investigate these claims. Other revelations from civil servants, former MP’s and goodness knows who else will follow.


Unlike my neighbour from all those years ago, I will never have an unfettered faith in the governmental/legal/ judicial process because innocent people do get sent to prison for nothing and the authorities do and have suppressed evidence to suit those in power and position and the political agenda that is prevalent at the time. I remain a legal doubting Thomas.


Also do not believe that this could not happen in Scotland because it has and it will again.
There have been many miscarriages of justice in the Scottish Courts none more disgraceful than the tale of Oscar Slater…………….. but Oscar’s story is best left for another day.







The release of the Guildford Four

R. v. Richardson, Conlon, Armstrong and Hill EWCA Crim

20 October 1989 – Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)

LORD LANE CJ (reading the Judgment of the court)
This is a reference by the Secretary of State for Home Affairs to the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division under the provision of section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968, which enables the Secretary of State, where a person has been convicted on indictment, to refer the whole case to the Court of Appeal. The case thereupon is to be treated for all purposes as an appeal to that court. The reference was made on 16 January 1989, that is to say some 9 months ago.


The facts of the case, in necessarily brief outline, are as follows. On 22 October 1975 the 4 appellants Armstrong, Conlon, Hill and Carole Richardson were convicted before Mr Justice Donaldson and a jury of conspiracy to cause explosions and of the five murders arising from the bombing on 5th October 1974 of the Horse and Groom public house at Guildford, and also of causing an explosion likely to endanger life on the same day at the Seven Stars public house in the same town. In addition, Armstrong and Hill were convicted of the two murders arising from the bombing on 7th November 1974 of a public house in Woolwich called the King’s Arms. Armstrong was, in addition, convicted of conspiracy to murder.


The appellants Armstrong, Conlon and Hill were sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum recommendation of 35 years for Armstrong and 30 years for Conlon. Other sentences which are immaterial for the present purposes were imposed in respect of the conspiracy. In the case of Hill the trial judge said that, although he could not formally recommend that he never be released, life should mean life, release only being on account of great age or infirmity. Carole Richardson was ordered to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure for the murder counts and to life imprisonment for causing an explosion.


Whilst awaiting trial for these offences Hill was convicted outside this jurisdiction, namely, at the Belfast City Court, on 26th June 1975 of the murder of Brian Shaw, an ex-soldier. He was sentenced by that court to life imprisonment. These proceedings today are of course not concerned with that conviction or sentence and they must stand regardless of the decision of this court.


So far as the trial in this country was concerned, the applications of the appellants for leave to appeal against their conviction were refused by the full Court of Appeal, Criminal Division on 28 October 1977 after a lengthy hearing lasting some 12 days. Richardson’s alibi was considered, but most of the appeal was taken up with the confessions to these bombings by what has come to be known as the Balcombe Street gang and assertions by that gang that these appellants were not concerned in the Guildford or the Woolwich explosion. No suggestion of course was made of the evidence which has now come to light from the Avon and Somerset inquiry.


On 20 January 1987, almost exactly 2 years before the present reference, the Home Secretary had declined to make any reference under section 17 to this court. Representation however continued to be made to him by various individuals and by various bodies to refer the matter and the grounds upon which he did so in January of this year were as follows:


First of all as to Carole Richardson’s alibi.


Subsequent to the trial a witness by the name of Maura Kelly, who in 1974 was employed in a baker’s shop, had come forward and was able to give some evidence in relation to Carole Richardson’s alibi. Attempts had been made to secure her attendance at court during the actual trial before Justice Donaldson, but she had gone to Ireland and she did not appear at the trial. The Secretary of State felt that that evidence should be considered by the court which by that time had become available.


The second ground was again in respect of Carole Richardson and was medical evidence which Mr Carman today has emphasized in his short remarks to us at the conclusion of Mr Amlot’s submission. While Carole Richardson was being detained by the Surrey Constabulary she was seen by a police surgeon, Dr Makos, because she was apparently in an hysterical state. In 1974 Dr Makos had said that he gave her one tablet of Tuinal in order to try to restore her calm. Much later in 1987, Dr Makos indicated he had given Carole an intra-muscular injection of 50 mg of Pethidine. In December 1988 the doctor withdrew that statement with regard to Pethidine, but the Home Secretary had obtained medical information to the effect that the use of Pethidine was plainly suffering from barbiturate withdrawal might have had some effect upon her ability properly to rationalize when she was making her statement. That was another ground upon which the Home Secretary sought to refer the matter to this court.


The third point upon which the matter was referred related to Paul Hill with regard to the Woolwich public house bombing. There was a further witness named Mrs Fox who provided some possible support for Hill’s alibi. She had made a statement in July 1987 which was placed before the Home Secretary. The identity of Mrs Fox had been known at the trial. It was decided not to call her, but the Secretary of State nevertheless felt that it would be proper for the appellant to be given a further chance to have that evidence considered and that was the third and final ground upon which the matter was referred to this court.


The start of the hearing of this reference upon which we are now embarked today had originally been arranged for this month at the beginning of the legal term, but at the request of the appellants the matter was postponed and the new starting date was 15 January 1990. There had been a pre-trial review before us earlier this year and the court had requested that the grounds of appeal should be submitted by the end of October.


However, earlier this week the court was informed that the Crown would no longer seek to uphold these convictions. The grounds upon which the matter had been referred to this court by the Secretary of State were not the basis of that decision, as of course we have now all learnt. Indeed we are told by Mr Amlot that had those grounds remained the sole points of the appeal – the sole points in issue in the case – the appeal would have been hotly contested by the Crown.
The nature of this change of attitude by the Crown led us to believe that the whole of this matter should be aired at the very first opportunity, hence the very brief gap of two days or so before today’s hearing.


The reasons now put forward by Mr Amlet, which we have heard this morning, arise out of the fact that the prosecution case depended upon confessions which were allegedly make by these appellants to the police during the course of those police inquiries. True there was alibi evidence as already indicated, but it would, I think, perhaps be fair to say that, save in Carole Richardson’s case, the alibis were not at the centre of the defence submissions. The alleged confessions of the appellants were the subject of the closest examination during the trial before Mr Justice Donaldson.


The prosecution case so far as the appellant Armstrong was concerned was, again in necessarily brief form, as follows. Armstrong made two statements which he signed. They amounted to confessions that he had taken part in the Guildford bombing. According to him, three of the appellants, that is to say Armstrong, a man called Paul (who was the driver of the motor car), Carole Richardson and Conlon, drove to Guildford in a car which was probably a Ford Capri, and there played their respective parts in the bombing of the two public houses. He later made another statement saying that it was he and Carole who had planted the bomb in the Horse and Groom and he marked the place where the bomb had been placed on a plan, and that did in fact coincide with the place where it seemed that the bomb had exploded. He later confirmed his complicity in the Guildford affair, but he added these words, “I am not admitting the Woolwich job. I didn’t do it, so why should I admit it”.


The defence case put forward by Armstrong was as follows. First of all he had no part in either the Guildford or the Woolwich bombing. The statements that he made to the police were untrue except for the personal details he had given and other immaterial matters. He signed the false statements, he said, because he had been high on drugs when he was arrested and when the effects of the drugs had worn off he was induced to sign these statements because he was frightened of the police officers. He said he had been treated with brutality by the police at the Guildford Police Station. As to the first statement, he asserted it was done by question and answer in such a way that the answer was suggested and he simply agreed to it. Some answers were untrue, such as the answer that he joined the IRA in 1969, and others were beyond his knowledge, for example, the place which he was alleged to have indicated, that is to say the place where the IRA training was done.


As to the second statement, according to him the officer started making it in the form in which it was eventually written and he simply answered questions. He put forward an alibi.
Turning now to Carole Richardson, the prosecution case against her was that she was an IRA sympathiser and was Armstrong’s girlfriend. She, it was alleged, voluntarily played a key part in planting the bomb in the Horse and Groom. So far as the attack on the other Guildford public house was concerned, the Seven Stars, although she did not plant the bomb, she knew that the trip to Guildford involved the bombing of two public houses. She made 4 statements to the police – two, I think, in her own handwriting. They amounted in effect to a confession of her complicity.
She did not give evidence herself. She made a statement from the dock, which at that time was permissible. She said she played no part in the Guildford bombings. The statements which it was alleged she had made to the police were, she asserted, dictated to her by the police. She had only signed them because she was frightened.


As to the second statement which gave details of the trip to Guildford and the planting of the bomb, she said that she, too, was subjected to police brutality and that the answers were dictated to her. She also gave evidence of an alibi which it will be remembered, was part of the grounds upon which the Secretary of State referred this matter to the court. She called witnesses in support of her alibi and the Crown called rebutting evidence, as Mr Amlot has told us this morning.


She also asserted in relation to the proposed medical evidence which Mr Carman has mentioned this morning that she had been taking barbiturates and was affected by the fact that the drugs were wearing off. She was suffering from withdrawal symptons and consequently was in no fit state to make proper considered statements.


Now I turn to the case against Hill. The Crown alleged that Hill was sent over from Ireland to carry out bombings. It was alleged that he went to Guildford as part of the team of bombers and he acted there as look-out, that he went on to Woolwich and there he passed the bomb to the person who actually threw it. He was arrested at Southampton at the end of November 1974.
He made a number of statements into which it is not necessary to go into detail. He described how he had been concerned with Armstrong in a bombing plot. He described how Armstrong had given his explosives; how he had gone to Guildford with Armstrong and Conlon; how he had arranged a false alibi.


The fifth statement was a summary of all the previous admissions about Guildford: how it was arranged by Armstrong that Conlon and another would attack the Horse and Groom public house and Carole Richardson and another would attack the Seven Stars. He then described how the operation was in fact carried out. Afterwards he said it was alleged that they drove back to London very fast and he was dropped off in Waterloo when he caught the train to Southampton.
Hill’s evidence was to the effect that he took no part in either bombing. On 5th October he was in Southampton, having left London at three o’clock in the afternoon. Consequently he could not have taken part in the alleged activities in Guildford. On 7 November he was staying with some people called Keenan, although he did go out to telephone his girlfriend at one stage during the evening. The Keenans, we heard this morning, were in fact called to give evidence. He made the statements to the police because they had said they were going to charge his girlfriend Gina Clarke, and he eventually made a statement, he said, in order to prevent Gina from being involved in the proceedings. He had never been told that public houses would be blown up. The police had suggested what he should write down. The Woolwich account that he was said to have given was not true. He was not there. He did not know if Armstrong had been there or not. The statement he made with regard to other matters had been made to stop the police pestering him. The idea that there were two teams of bombers came from the way the police had directed their questioning. As to the final statement, he put it down the way the police wanted it put down. It was not true.


Finally, the case against Conlon was that he was part of the Guildford bombing team. He and the girl called Annie had planted the bomb in the Seven Stars. The allegation was that he knew what they were going to do but that the girl it was who carried the bomb, and he knew that another public house was to be bombed.


He also was alleged to have made a number of statements. In those statements he was alleged to have said that Hill had asked him to do “a little job” and there was a suggestion that he, Conlon, would be killed if he did not help Hill in the enterprise.


A few nights later he was taken to a flat where he saw what appeared to be a bomb either already manufactured or in the course of being manufactured. He was an unwilling passenger in the car which took the bombers to Guildford. He read about the Guildford explosion in the newspapers the next day and did not realize that was the place to which he had been taken.


In his second statement he referred to a bomb factory. Once again he described how he had gone to a place the name of which he did not know, how he went off with Carole Richardson, who took him to a public house, and afterwards how the two of them joined Hill. They drove back to London where he was told not to breathe a word about this to anybody.


He too gave evidence in his own defence. He had not been to Guildford at all. At the time he had been in London with a gentleman called Paul Kelly, but Kelly did not in fact give evidence. Conlon said that he had been assaulted by the police at Guildford. He said that threats were made against his family to try to persuade him to confess and that the police tore up his first statement in which he had declined to make any admissions about the bombings. Eventually he wrote the material statement but it was written with a lot of help from the police who in effect dictated it and the admissions he made were not true.


From that necessarily brief precis of the way in which the case proceeded it will be seen that, in reality, everything depended upon whether the jury were satisfied so as to feel sure that the police evidence in relation to the various interviews, and consequently the statements which came afterwards, was to be relied upon or not.


It follows that any evidence which casts a real doubt upon the reliability or veracity of the officers who were responsible for the various interrogations must mean that the whole foundation of the prosecution case disappears and that the convictions will in those circumstances be obviously unsafe.


In this case, as Mr Amlot has meticulously described in his opening address this morning, evidence has come to light, thanks to the efforts of the Avon and Somerset Police – evidence which shows quite clearly, as is accepted by the Crown, that the so-called contemporaneous records of some of the interviews conducted by the Surrey police officers with Armstrong and relied upon by those officers as they gave evidence were not contemporaneous records at all. What exactly they were may never be known, but it is accepted, and rightly accepted, by the Crown, if I may say so, that the manuscript notes produced at the trial were not what the Surrey police officers said on oath they were. The officers, to use Mr Amlot’s somewhat anodyne expression, seriously misled the court. In fact they must have lied.


Armstrong was the first on the indictment and once again, as Mr Amlot has indicated quite correctly, his case was crucial to the whole of the Crown’s allegations against these appellants. It seems to us – and I hasten to add that it is necessarily speculation – that there are two possible explanations for the Armstrong typescripts and the amendments made to them, if I can use that comprehensive expression to describe the documents which Mr Amlot has been through so meticulously this morning.


The first possible explanation is that the typescripts are a fabrication by the police from start to finish, invented by some fertile Constabulary mind; that they were amended to make them more effective and were then written out in manuscript so as to enable the police to produce them as though they were a contemporaneous note of the interrogation. The second possibility is that there was a contemporaneous manuscript note; that it was reduced into typewritten form by someone as a fair copy for some reason or other – perhaps legibility; one does not know – and that it was then amended here and there in order to improve it; and, finally, that it was reconverted into manuscript by the various Surrey officers involved so that it could be produced as a contemporaneous note.


It may be that it was a mixture of those two possibilities, but for the purposes of this appeal it is immaterial which of the two versions is true. In any event the police were not telling the truth about this crucial document in the case against Armstrong. If they were prepared to tell this sort of lie, then the whole of their evidence becomes suspect and, I repeat, on their evidence depended the prosecution case.


As to Hill, still further matters were to come to light as a result of the investigation of the Avon and Somerset Police. These took the shape of a series of manuscript notes relating to an interview with Hill, and once again Mr Amlot has helpfully been through this matter in detail this morning and there is no need for us to repeat those details here. But the contents of those notes were significant. They were never disclosed to the director of Public Prosecutions. They were never disclosed to prosecution counsel before or at the trial. Indeed they had not seen the light of day until the Avon and Somerset Police discovered them sometime earlier this year.
If they had been disclosed prior to the trial or at the trial, they would almost certainly have shown that Hill’s fifth statement – one of the greatest importance – was taken in breach of the Judges’ Rules and might very well have been ruled inadmissible if the true circumstances of it had been known. Moreover, the Surrey officers on oath, as it is conceded by the Crown, denied that there had been any such interview.


The detention sheets, which are the third and final broad matter raised and discovered by the Avon and Somerset Police support that discrepancy. There is no need perhaps for us to set out in this judgment the other matters which have now come to light upon an examination of the detention sheets. There is before us, and again helpfully explained by Mr Amlot, a schedule showing the discrepancies between the detention sheets and the record of interviews which were made by the Surrey investigating officers. Mr Amlot has pointed out in detail where the detention records do in fact conflict with the officers’ evidence as to the time and duration of those various interviews, and there is no doubt that those are material discrepancies which, had they been known at the trial, might on their own, let alone in conjunction with those other matters, have made a grave difference to the outcome.


Those matters deal primarily with the cases of Armstrong on the one hand and Hill on the other. The cases against Conlon and Richardson are obviously intimately bound up with these events. We of course do not know what the jury would have made of the matter. Our task is to determine whether we think the convictions of Conlon and Richardson are made unsafe by what we have heard. We have no doubt that these events make the convictions of all of these 4 appellants in respect of the Guildford and the Woolwich events unsafe, even though the latest revelations have no direct bearing on the evidence relating to the Woolwich bombing.


It is some comfort to know that these matters are now in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to criminal proceedings being brought. We earnestly express the hope that nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of a speedy progress of those proceedings. It seems that by about May 1989 these papers had come to light having been discovered by the Avon and Somerset Constabulary. No doubt it was necessary thereafter to conduct meticulous enquiries as to their provenance. We are told that the various writings and typings have been identified, namely, that the authors of them are known and can be proved or are the subject of admission. We hope that those enquiries may have paved the way for expeditious criminal proceedings.


Whatever may now happen, the painstaking and perspicacious efforts of the Avon and Somerset Police have salvaged something from this unhappy matter.


This morning each of the appellants through their learned counsel has addressed us. They have indicated that there were other arguments and other pieces of evidence that they would have advanced in support of their appeals and had the matter been, so to speak, pre-empted by the latest revelations explained by Mr Amlot. We note what they say, but so far as this court is concerned these appeals are allowed and convictions are quashed.







2 Responses to “The Four, The Six, The Seven and the 96 — Government “Havering” In the name of the Law?”

  1. bt77 January 30, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    Reblogged this on Brian Thompson.

    • Nuala September 22, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

      Is it true that the files into these investigations are sealed for one hundred years do you know?

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The latest news on and the WordPress community.

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