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FULL DISCLOSURE OF EVIDENCE
Non-disclosure of evidence has been a fatal flaw in ALL, if not most Miscarriages of Justice.
This allows a 10 to 15 year safety net for all concerned to be either retired or dead, thus leaving the innocent incarcerated and the Police and Prosecution to have ample time to cover things up.
In some cases, the conviction is due largely to the testimony of police so-called 'Supergrass evidence', that the police will claim that if they made this information public, would put the informers lives at risk.
In any event, they still call them as witnesses and claim reward money, blood money, from the Judicial system that put the innocents behind bars in the first place.
(This practise is known as the 'Ten Year Itch').
__________________ I'd rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I am not".
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Indeed Admin. It will be interesting to see how the reform on DISCLOSURE will work with the newly formed Soca's use of Queens evidence deals with informants.
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Law enforcement agencies have used informers in the fight against crime since time immemorial
but Rose sums up the difficulty of the use of sources when he says "
it is axiomatic that in order to be effective, informants will not be model citizens
." (Rose (1996) p.192)
Many sources are far from model citizens, indeed they are criminals and in some situations they are permitted to participate in a crime and these sources attract the label "participating informers." This note seeks to explore the legal implication of the use of such informers.
Legality of using a Source
Traditionally there has been no statutory authorisation for the use of an informer, it was just an accepted practice to use them. This could have caused problems in the human rights era because the use of an informer could breach Article 8(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) in that they are invariably tasked to gather private or personal information.
To prevent a breach, the public authority
must show that they come within Article 8(2). This requires the police to show legality, legitimate aim, necessity and proportionality. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
has, however, always said that legality means more than something being simply not illegal
but requires a clear legal basis.
In response to this the government enacted the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
The Act had a difficult and controversial passage through Parliament yet the use of informers passed by almost unscrutinised, and participating informers were barely considered.
This is all the more remarkable when one remembers the fiasco that the "supergrass" trials in the 1980s caused.
It was not just supergrass operations which were controversial though as many "normal" operations were similarly discredited.
Section 29(1) of RIPA, when read in conjunction with s.26(8), authorises an officer to use a covert human intelligence source (CHIS) under certain circumstances. It is worth noting at the outset the new language as RIPA does not deal with just informers but with sources and this includes undercover officers too.
According to the Act a source is someone who:
establishes or maintains a personal or other relationship with a person for the covert purpose of...
(a) using such relationship to obtain information or provide access to any information to any other person; or
(b) disclosing information obtained by the use of such a relationship, or as a consequence of the existence of such a relationship.
An informer would fall within this definition almost automatically. The requirement for a relationship would help exclude citizens who provide information to the police without the wish for reward or without being tasked to provide any information.
Before granting authority to use a source, the authorising officer
must be satisfied that it is necessary to use this source for a proper purpose,
that the use of a source is proportionate to that purpose
and that certain internal procedural requirements have been satisfied.
The Act does not differentiate between the different types of sources although the Code of Practice
to some degree does. A significant part of the Code deals with setting out special rules in relation to confidential information, vulnerable sources and juvenile sources.
However RIPA barely mentions participating informers other than a small paragraph in the draft code:
A source may, in the context of an authorised operation, infiltrate existing criminal activity, or be a party to the commission of criminal offences, within the limits recognised by law. A source who acts beyond these limits will be at risk of prosecution. The need to protect the source cannot alter this principle. (17)
The final sentence has probably been added as a result of the problems encountered in the 1980s and 1990s where sources were given almost total immunity in order to protect them.
This resulted in fierce criticism from the judiciary and this paragraph perhaps recognises this. Of more interest is the reference to the "limits recognised by law" as this is of uncertain meaning. What is the legality of the use of an informer?
Apart from those few lines the Act and Code makes no reference to participating informers. Some have hypothesised that this is because Parliament did not want to condone crime but that is unclear.
Given that other types of sources have their own authorisation procedures set out in the Code
it may be thought that not expressly including participating informants in the Code is a significant omission. By omitting to mention participating informants, it could be construed that the rules governing their use are no different to normal sources. This would be a considerable change from the previous regime when special rules as to the use of participating informers existed.
But does the omission bring the legality into question? Now the Human Rights Act 1998 is in force, we must look to the Strasbourg definition of what law is. One of the leading cases in this area is
Malone v United Kingdom (1984) 7 EHRR 14 which related to a telephone tap being used by the police to gather information in relation to a prosecution.
Malone petitioned the ECtHR alleging that this was a breach of Article 8. The government sought to rely on Article 8(2) but failed because there was no legal basis. The same result occurred in
Halford v United Kingdom (1998) 24 EHRR 523 when it was admitted that the tapping of an office telephone was outside the remit of the Interception of Communications Act 1985 (which was enacted in response to the decision in Malone) However the same result may not necessarily arise in relation to participating informants because there is some kind of statutory basis – s.29 – but is a vague authority good enough for a legal basis?
The ECtHR has often spoke about the need to examine the quality of the law and not just the basic authorisation. In
Khan v United Kingdom (App. No. 35394/97. Judgment 12 May 2000) the Court said:
[T]he phrase "in accordance with the law" not only requires compliance with domestic law but relates to the quality of that law... the law must be sufficiently clear in its terms to give individuals an adequate indication as to the circumstances in which and the conditions on which public authorities are entitled to resort to such covert measures
. (para 26)
The Code does not set out the conditions for authorisation etc. The Code refers to law, but what is the law? There are few reported cases which relate to the mechanics of the use of an informer.
One case of note is R v Birtles  1 WLR 1047, CA
...whilst the police are entitled to make use of information concerning an offence already laid on and while... it may be proper for the police to encourage the informer to take part in the offence... the police must never use an informer to encourage another to commit an offence which he would not otherwise commit
This was reiterated in
R v Ameer and Lucas  Crim LR 104, CA where the Court of Appeal said that issues such as the level of participation and the fact that it had been authorised at a senior level were all factors to be considered. However neither of these cases set out the circumstances and conditions which apply to the use of an informer, they only make the point that the use can be permitted.
Some details are set out in Home Office Circular 97/1969 but neither Strasbourg nor domestic courts have been particularly impressed by the status of Home Office Circulars, not least because they are not binding.
The old Manual of Standards set out the rules relating to participating informers, and a new draft has been written, but because they are classified as restricted access it is unlikely that they would provide sufficient clarity and forseeability for the quality of law to be acceptable under Article 8(2). Of course that is not to say that every detail of the use of a participating informer should be released.
There will be many technicalities which need to remain classified, but issues such as the authorisation period and broad indications as to the limits in which they can operate should be contained within the Code of Practice.
Even if, however, the combination of statute, Code and Home Office Circulars provide sufficient clarity to bring the matter within the “quality of law” test, there is one other hurdle which may be more difficult to clear. In
Teixera de Castro v Portugal (1999) 28 EHRR 101 the ECtHR was asked to examine a case involving undercover agents.
It should be noted from the outset that the agents in
Teixera de Castro were police officers, but there is, it is submitted, no reason why this difference should not be of relevance to participating sources. One of the matters that the ECtHR considered to be vital was the oversight of the source.
Teixera de Castro
an investigating judge had given authority to use the undercover agent, and he remained in general oversight in relation to the use of the agent.
A similar statement had been made in the earlier case of
Lüdi v Switzerland
(1992) 15 EHRR 173 where the fact that the investigating magistrate had given authority for the use of an undercover agent was considered to be an important safeguard for Article 8.
However within the English system of criminal justice there is no such thing as an investigating magistrate. RIPA does, admittedly, set up a system of oversight through the use of commissioners
who hold high judicial office.
However the oversight that the commissioners undertake is retrospective rather than concurrent, there is neither a duty nor an ascertainable statutory mechanism by which the police could seek prior judicial
approval for the use of the source. This can be contrasted with other forms of surveillance, most notably intrusive surveillance
and property interference.
It could be argued that participating sources in particular would need the safeguard of judicial oversight, even if this is through the system of commissioners, because it is relatively easy to see the parallel nature of participating sources and undercover agents.
If, as the ECtHR appears to suggest, judicial oversight is required for agents then it would appear likely that the same is to be required of participating sources. Indeed one could argue that it is more likely that they would require oversight since agents tend to be law enforcement officers and as such carry a knowledge of the rules of evidence etc. whereas sources do not.
Interestingly, if a court, using its powers under the Human Rights Act 1998, does declare that participating informers require judicial oversight, RIPA appears capable of remedying the situation very quickly. The Home Secretary has reserved the right by order either to prohibit the granting of an authority in relation to certain sources, or place extra restrictions on the granting of authority.
The Home Secretary could, therefore, enact a statutory instrument which states that before authority is given for the use of a participating informer, a Commissioner must give his approval. In that way a senior judge would have a degree of oversight over the use of the source as renewals etc. would also have to be notified to the Commissioners in the way which already occurs for intrusive surveillance or property interference.
Participating informers have been used for a considerable period of time. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, as drafted, currently poses a threat to their continued use.
Whilst the Act itself does not differentiate between the types of sources, the Codes of Practice – which have statutory authority themselves – does. It is to be doubted whether there is sufficient clarity in the current Codes of Practice for them to meet the “quality of law” test inherent in Article 8(2). If that occurs then this would cause significant problems for law enforcement agencies.
It is clear that breach of Article 8 will not necessarily amount to a breach of Article 6
but it would lead to a claim for compensation. Law enforcement agencies cannot afford to pay compensation every time they use a participating source so, in reality, the use of such sources would be curtailed. The Home Office must, if they wish the use of such sources to continue, remedy this situation by providing extra information within Article 8.
However it may not be that simple. The courts, be they domestic or Strasbourg, may decide that judicial oversight of such sources is necessary.
This would, arguably, be in line with previous Strasbourg jurisprudence. If this requirement is ordered then the Act already provides the framework to enable the solution, and it will be important that the Home Office plugs this gap quickly to ensure the continued use of such sources is not compromised
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Blair's apology to Guildford Four Twenty-five years after four young people were wrongfully convicted of the Guildford pub bombings in 1974, Tony Blair has become the first person in authority to apologise for the miscarriage of justice. In a letter to Courtney Kennedy Hill, the American wife of Paul Hill, one of the Guildford four, he said he was "very sorry" they were wrongly imprisoned. Details of the apology were revealed in a special two-part edition of BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme last night which told Mr Hill's story. Mr Hill, Gerry Conlon, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson were given life sentences for bombing public houses in Guildford, Surrey. Each spent 15 years in prison before their convictions were overturned by the court of appeal in 1989. Mr Hill and Mr Armstrong were also wrongfully convicted of a bomb attack in Woolwich, south-east London. A total of seven people died in both bombings. Gerry Conlon told the Guardian last night that he was delighted with the news but he expressed anger at the belated timing of the apology and the fact that he and his family had never received one. "We should have had an apology a long time ago, as well as proper compensation," he said. "It's been driving me mad that there has not been an apology so this thing can be put to bed. My mother in particular should have had one. I'm still going through a terrible time, getting dreadful flashbacks. "My psychiatrist tells me he has never experienced a worst case of post-traumatic stress syndrome, worse even than those soldiers in the Falklands war." Mrs Hill is the daughter of the assassinated American attorney general, Robert Kennedy, and niece of the murdered president, John F Kennedy. The programme says the prime minister wrote: "I believe that it is an indictment of our system of justice and a matter for the greatest regret when anyone suffers punishment as a result of a miscarriage of justice. "There were miscarriages of justice in your husband's case, and the cases of those convicted with him. I am very sorry indeed that this should have happened." It is understood that Mr Hill, 45, has received £200,000 as interim compensation for the time he spent in prison and is still awaiting a final settlement. He told the programme: "No one knows the monetary value you can put on 15 years. I don't think there is anybody alive who can come out of that experience and not be scarred. "Those who would begrudge me my compensation - their minds are smaller than peas. To those who say, 'Oh, he's living well,' you have no idea." He said he was numbed by his conviction. "I stood in the court. I was numb. I had no feelings whatsoever. I wasn't sad; I was not depressed; I was cold and numb. "And I think the most poignant thing was that the judge expressed regret that the death penalty was not an option." __________________ FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS
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ferrisconspiracy : UPDATE/ROBERT BROWN
Robert blew almost £50,000 on taxis because he was too paranoid to use public transport.
Then he took a year's trip with friends across Britain, paying for a car and driver.
"I wanted to be on the road, to see and feel and hear what freedom was all about."
And he spent more than £10,000 to send his mother Margaret and two friends on a cruise when she was dying of cancer and he knew it would be her last holiday.
He also bought a Glasgow flat which he renovated but will now be forced to sell to top up his incapacity benefits.
He gave thousands of pounds away to friends and would hand over wads of notes to homeless people in the street.
And thousands more went on drugs and drink when his life spiralled out of control following the death of his mother.
He said: "I was dumped on the outside with no help and no advice on how to deal with money.
"I didn't even know how to use a bank and I was scared to invest money because I was so suspicious I would be swindled. Prison induces paranoia.
"I was 19 when I went to prison and I came out to a place I didn't understand.
"I would do things like get in a taxi in Glasgow and ask the driver to drop me in Wales just to avoid using the train."
After living in a jail for so long, public transport terrified Robert.
"I hated getting on a bus. I tried but I didn't know how to put my fare in a machine and I thought everyone was staring at me. The only transport I had been using was a little box in the back of a prison-office van.
"Sometimes I have wished I was back in prison. In some ways it would be easier."
Robert was jailed for the brutal murder of 51-year-old Annie Walsh, who lived near his digs in Manchester.
He was 19 and falsely confessed after being beaten for two days by corrupt police officer Detective Inspector Jack Butler of Greater Manchester Police.
The police also fabricated two other statements and withheld an important piece of forensic material from his defence team.
The Court of Appeal later accepted "compelling" evidence of corruption.
Robert was eligible for parole 10 years ago but refused to admit his guilt and stayed in jail.
The verdict was overturned in 2002 and Robert was freed.
Annie's killing remains unsolved.
Glaswegian Robert found himself on the streets with no offer of emotional support or practical guidance from the authorities.
Ironically, if he had been guilty, he would have been given an after-care service with a support network and counselling.
He now plans to join other victims of miscarriage of justice to sue the Government for the same rights to be given to the innocent.
And the Miscarriages Of Justice Organisation (MOJO) hope to provide a retreat to offer financial, emotional and psychological help for victims like Robert.
But they have struggled to find the £1million funding needed.
Robert said: "If I had been taken to a retreat and offered advice and support, I wouldn't be in this position. The guilty can play the system, get out and get support but the innocent feel like forgotten people in a forgotten land.
"Dealing with money is very, very difficult. Being financially practical dealing with credit cards, direct debit and bills is something I never learned to do."
Robert is due to receive a final compensation payment but has no idea how much it will be and it could take several years to arrive.
When it does, he will be charged thousands in interest on his £300,000 interim payment for every year up to the final payout.
He was given the first £100,000 six months after his release and the rest over the coming years.
Yet he won't receive a penny in interest for the money that has been held back.
Robert said: "It took them six months and 10 days for them to wrongly convict me. Why is it taking years for them to pay my compensation? It is a war of attrition."
He said the sliding scale used to calculate compensation is unfair.
It relies on the assertion of the former independent assessor Sir David Calcutt QC that prison life gets easier with the more time spent inside.
Robert disagrees, saying:"My mother was dying of cancer and I couldn't see her.
"Every day I spent in prison brought me closer to her death. How was that easier?"
ANGER OVER 'FLAWED' PAYOUT FORMULA
THE compensation formula was set by Sir David Calcutt QC, the Government's former independent assessor.
It considers loss of earnings on the basis of earning capacity plus loss of liberty, mental suffering, injury to character and reputation, legal costs and travelling costs of visiting family members.
Calcutt decided that a block amount of money should be given for the first year of wrongful imprisonment, claiming it got easier for prisoners the longer they were incarcerated.
He said compensation should be reduced on a downward sliding scale in line with the years served.
Robert said: "Every day a guilty man spends in jail is a day off his sentence, but for an innocent man, every day is another day of stolen freedom.
"You are deprived of everyday things - going for a walk, putting your arms around your loved ones.
"If you are brutalised and dehumanised on a daily basis for 25 years, it doesn't get easier. Calcutt was a QC and had no qualifications to make such a ridiculous generalisation."
__________________ The TRUTH is out there...........
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Hi all. Found these website's whilst browsing. Thought i would post the links; http://www.writesite.org.uk/
Judge for Yourself is a book that is long overdue - a well researched lay person's guide to the British and http://www.portia.org/ the democratic processes that govern our lives. It is well worth a read.
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JUSTICE IN THE DOCK; OUR INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY EVOLVED TO RISE ABOVE THE DEMANDS OF THE MOB. BUT IN 2003, IN A WEEK WHEN A MAN WHO RAPED A BABY WAS JAILED FOR ONLY FIVE YEARS, IS IT RIGHT THAT OUR JUDGES SHOULD STILL HOLD PUBLIC OPINION IN SUCH BRAZEN CONTEMPT?( NEWS)
FROM time to time there occurs a miscarriage of
justice so obscene that it dictates the future development of the law. Such cases mobilise enlightened reformers and their significance is solemnly taught to future students of history and jurisprudence.
They prompt epochal changes in the relationship between society and authority. In 1950s Britain the hangings of Timothy Evans, Ruth Ellis and Derek Bentley played such a role.
Popular opinion was outraged that judges could condemn to death people the public considered deserving of mercy. The uproar caused by their executions compounded a sense of revulsion generated by the still-emerging horrors of the Holocaust.
Many in the judiciary resisted change, but reform triumphed. Parliament first suspended and then abolished capital punishment.
Paddy Hill/ MOJO : "Those who would begrudge me my compensation - their minds are smaller than peas. To those who say, 'Oh, he's living well,' you have no idea." He said he was numbed by his conviction. "I stood in the court. I was numb. I had no feelings whatsoever. I wasn't sad; I was not depressed; I was cold and numb.
"And I think the most poignant thing was that the judge expressed regret that the death penalty was not an option."
Thirty years later the acquittal on appeal of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six generated irresistible pressure for the creation of truly independent Criminal Cases Review Commissions in England and Scotland.
Again judges in both jurisdictions were suspicious, but democratically elected governments concluded that, no matter how aloof from mass sentiment it is, nor how proud of its independence, the judiciary is obliged to accept that the legal system has not been invented that can continue to enforce a law that is not supported by the people.
This week a Scottish judge committed an error that should have similarly profound consequences.
When Lord Reed sentenced James Taylor to only five years in jail for the inhuman depravity of raping a 13-monthold baby he placed
justice beyond the comprehension of decent people.
In doing so he risked shattering the contract according to which free citizens consent to the authority of courts and judges.
More than 2,000 years ago the Roman general and administrator Marcus Tullius Cicero argued that: 'There is in fact a true law - namely, right reason -which is in accordance with nature, applies to all men, and is unchangeable and eternal.' Cicero was right. What he called 'true law' has since come to be known as natural law. It is a set of ethical standards that requires no philosophical defence but reflects the fundamental values of civilised human beings.
Natural law is neither arbitrary nor capricious. It accords with human nature and is accepted by all who are not lawyers as the ultimate basis of law and ethics.
James Taylor ' s offence appalled those values. It was repugnant. In order to retain the respect without which it cannot function, our legal system had no choice but to recognise that.
But Lord Reed's disgraceful leniency ensured that it did not. His sentence defied every principle of natural law.
Reed has form. Last year he declined to jail Paul McGregor, an armed robber who terrified shop assistants. Instead, he suggested that the young thug should present flowers to his victims.
Valerie Watchman, the shop assistant who faced up to McGregor, described the suggestion as 'unbelievable'. It was, but Lord Reed is not unique. In recent months Scots have been assailed by repeated examples of judicial insensitivity.
IN December 2002, a teenage car thief received a sentence of only 18 months after leaving an innocent young woman unable to feed or dress herself and in need of constant care for the rest of her life.
The absurdity of that sentence paled last March when Robert Jackson, of East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, admitted inflicting horrifying injuries on his girlfriend's one- month old daughter.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Jackson shook the Our independent judiciary evolved to rise above the demands of the mob.
But in 2003, in a week when a man who raped a baby was jailed for only five years, is it right that our judges should still hold public opinion in such brazen contempt? baby violently. The infant's injuries were said to be similar to those of a car crash victim.
The judge, Lord Nimmo Smith, sentenced Jackson to community service and he compounded the insult by declaring: 'This case seems to have generated something of a lynch-mob mentality.' Comments like that have fuelled a powerful suspicion that the fabled and fiercelydefended independence of our judiciary has become synonymous with naked contempt for democracy.
It should come as no surprise if that is true.
The Act of Union of 1707 abolished the original Scottish parliament, but it did nothing to change our court system.
The personnel of the Scottish legal establishment remained entirely distinct from that in the rest of the UK. The world of Scottish law became a uniquely closed and self protective one, singularly dedicated to the defence of differences which justify its existence.
Today, despite much-heralded reforms such as the introduction of an allegedly independent judicial appointments board, it remains one of the most closed establishments in the free world.
Consider the membership of the Court of Session, Scotland's supreme civil court whose members also preside over criminal cases in the High Court of Justiciary.
THE records of their schooling read like a
list of our most prestigious public schools. Fettes, Hutcheson' s , George Wa t s o n' s C o l l e g e , S a i n t Aloysius and Loretto all feature.
These judges attended the same universities and share social and sporting interests.
Nobody can doubt their legal and academic qualifications, but men such as Lord Reed, Lord Marnoch, Lord MacFadyen and Lord Gill are effectively members of the same private club. It is a sense of shared identity that is powerfully augmented by the nature of the Scots legal profession.
Entirely self-regulating, it reserves for itself the right to make every decision or appointment of importance. It defines its own hierarchy and demands obedience from those who aspire to promotion and the wealth it confers.
Its rituals, wigs, robes and antiquated language all add to the impression of a profession separated from everyday life and driven by a logic of its own.
There was once good reason for this. Before prosperity and democracy spread respect for authority, judges would often deviate considerably from the law as enacted by Parliament.
They relied for their appointments upon the good will of the monarch and government and could be overtly craven in their efforts to win favour, even to the extent of victimising their own.
Thus, in 1793, the High Court Judge Lord Braxfield sentenced Glasgow advocate Thomas Muir to 14 years at the penal colony in Botany Bay.
Contemporaries described the trial as a travesty of
justice. But Muir was a radical reformer and Lord Braxfield considered it his duty to protect the established order against 'an almost universal spirit of reform and opposition to the established government' which had spread through the country in the aftermath of the French Revolution. impartiality has turned into grotesque arrogance.
By its repeated failure to consider the interests of the victims of crime, our judiciary has come offensively close to the caricature drawn by Sir W. S.
Gilbert whose Lord Chief
Justice sang: 'The law is the true embodiment of everything that's excellent. It has no kind of fault or flaw, and I my lords embody the law.' Today, influenced by the hasty imposition of the European Convention on Human Rights, Scotland ' s senior judges seem determined to ignore not just the victims of criminal violence but the policies of elected politicians, too.
They are determined to resist sentencing guidelines designed to reflect the popular will.
Every attempt to achieve consistency in the punishment of serious offences is countered by furious allegations of political interference and dire warnings about the grave threat to liberty posed by ideological
Such warnings made sense, were indeed valuable, when popular
justice reflected a taste for brutal retribution and crowds would flock to witness a public hanging as enthusiastically as modern Scots attend football matches.
But the days when an Edinburgh crowd would gaily pick each other's pockets as a pickpocket was executed before them are as distant as the anti-witch hysteria of the late 16th century that saw Scotland burn more women at the stake than any other country in Europe.
The tiny, bloodthirsty minority, which craves the obscene theatre of ritualised judicial murder, is outnumbered by a compassionate majority that longs for
justice to deter thuggery and protect the innocent.
That heartfelt longing is hardly irrational. Official statistics confirm that fear of serious crime has nothing to do with popular paranoia.
Mugging, sexual assault and drug-related violence are not myths. They are an ever-present threat to thousands of lawabiding Scots.
There is no legal principle that can legitimately object to the introduction of coherent sentencing policy. It was man's propensity towards
justice that made democracy possible. In modern Scotland the judiciary's inclination to injustice has made the democratisationof sentencing essential.
It used to be said there were among the Scottish professions none who could rival the lawyers in wealth or prestige. As far as those at the pinnacle of that profession - the judges - are concerned, only the wealth part of that equation remains valid.
A thousand wise sentences are rendered worthless every time a judge commits the category of error Lord Reed committed this week.
It is rare to hear a judge criticised by fellow lawyers. Deference to their Lordships runs through the profession like dry rot through untreated timber.
AS if to prove it, Nicola Sturgeon LLB, the SNP's shadow
justice minister, sweetened her criticism of Reed by declaring: 'In a normal course of events it would be inappropriate to second-guess a judge.' Then she abandoned the ingrained tradition of her profession and threw caution to the wind.
'However, in this gut-wrenchingly appalling case most people will be perplexed at the leniency of the sentence.' Reed's monstrous contempt for public opinion has temporarily shattered the collective coherence of the legal establishment. It must not be allowed to reassert itself.
Loyalty to the men in robes cannot be unconditional. For them to demand that requires the nation to reject deeplyheld convictions about fairness and natural
justice that have given Scotland a legal tradition worthy of respect and autonomous status.
The First Minister's assertion that sentences 'must fit the crime' reflects the most overwhelming imperative in national life. It must be followed through.
This weekend, in the clubs and libraries where they meet and talk, safe from the prying eyes of mere voters, Scotland's lawyers are discussing Lord Reed's inexcusable leniency.
They know it marks a defining moment in Scottish legal history. This shock has the potential to ensure that
justice once again marches in step with the legitimate wishes of the population it exists to serve.
There is no excuse for resisting clear sentencing rules. If the Sentencing Commission established under Lord Maclean proposes anything less it will be ridiculed and reviled.
By volunteering to adapt to the demands of reality the Scottish judiciary can earn the right to maintain an appropriate degree of independence from the political process.
If it opts instead to manifest a thoroughly corrupted instinct to protect worthless self-interest it deserves to be ruthlessly squashed.
The U.S. has elected judges. The notion may appear ludicrous to the Faculty of Advocates, but they must be aware that, this weekend, it looks increasingly pragmatic to the country at large.
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SCOTLAND'S top cop Sir John Orr OBE is the mastermind behind some of
the most highprofile crusades against crime.
During his time as Strathclyde Chief Constable, has cracked down on
violent criminals and drug dealers.
Crime has fallen to record lows as detection rates have jumped 10 per cent
in five years.
But after 40 years as a police officer, Sir John will be hanging up his uniform
at the end of this month.
He'll quietly from the front to the back pages in his new role as chairman of
his beloved Kilmarnock FC.
A landmark in his police career was Lockerbie - when he faced the daunting
task of leading Scotland's biggest ever murder inquiry.
Like everyone else, he wanted to pause for a moment and shed tears
at the sickening devastation surrounding him.
But there was work to be done.
And work has been his watchword as he rose through the ranks
since starting as a young constable.
But, if he has his way, Sir John will be remembered for just one thing
- that he tried his level best to help people and the community.
Sir John, 55, said:
"Sitting in this chair is a cherished responsibility and there's not been
a waking moment during my tenure that I haven't seriously considered
how I can make people's lives just a wee bit better."
"I have a passion about that.
And if I had to do it over again I would do it exactly the same way."
In his final days as Scotland's chief crimebuster,
Sir John is preparing to announce that crime in Strathclyde has fallen
to record lows, as detection continues to rise.
It will be yet another clear vindication of his unique if often robust style
In campaigns such as Operation Stop and Chat, he has been accused of
going too far.
Some have even talked of civil rights violation when motorists were stopped
at random or children in Hamilton were subjected to a so-called "curfew"
in a child safety initiative.
But if the number of knives which have been removed from the streets under
Operation Spotlight is anything to go by, then there's no doubt that his
methods have clearly worked.
The detection rate when he took office at the end of 1995 was 34 per cent.
It's now 44.1 per cent.
He has turned round violent crime and domestic violence.
And he's put more drug dealers behind bars as the force seized drugs worth more
than pounds 8.5million last year.
Sir John said: "I've been criticised in the past by some people who claim robust
and interventionist policing perhaps infringes civil liberties, or imp cts on the
freedom of the public at certain times.
"I don't see it that way. I see it as the police doing their work.
Despite what might have been said, I receive no complaints about this style
of policing, because we try to tell the public why we do it.
"I'm very proud of the fact that I retire when this force is in an extremely
good state of health for my successor to further develop the force in his own way."
As Sir John makes way for his successor, there's no question that the drugs
issue remains the biggest single problem facing Strathclyde Police.
Meanwhile, Sir John believes he has left the force in a good state of health for his successor.
But where he won't be able to help is in the continuing struggle
against lack of resources.
And through his budget of pounds 9million, he's also been forced to operate
with less than a third of the pounds 30million he believes is needed.
"We have had real pressure on us because of a lack of resources throughout almost
all of my time as Chief Constable.
"The strength of Strathclyde Police is the quality of people within it.
"When you make a mistake or haven't got something right, say so.
The harrowing investigation began one cold night in December 1988,
when PanAm Flight 103 was blown up over Dumfries-shire.
He said: "There's no doubt that being senior investigating officer at Lockerbie
was perhaps the biggest challenge I ever faced.
"It's something I've never spoken about too much.
But when you see the death and destruction as I did that night,
with 270 people murdered, it's something that will remain with you forever."
His two sons have followed him into the police - one is an inspector in Strathclyde
and the other a detective constable in Dumfries and Galloway.
The proudest moment of his career was when he was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
But despite being an honour, it was also an occasion tinged with great sadness.
He said: "When I received notification about the knighthood I felt quite humble.
"Above all, I'm extremely proud of the people in this organisation and the
progress that we've made. Quiet satisfaction would be the words I would use.
"You get bruised as you go along in this job and the one thing that continually
pleases me is the reaction from the public.
"I got a card a few weeks ago from a man from Glasgow, which I keep at home.
"Writing personally, he said 'This is from an 87-year-old Mr Nobody.
I just want to say to you thanks for what you and your force have done'.
"That means so much to me. We've made mistakes and this force will continue
to make mistakes - it happens in public life -
but when you get that kind of little note from someone who takes the time to go
and buy a card and write it in the way he did, then it makes up for the bad days.
"And that's the kind of thing I will remember and it re-enforces my belief that at least we're trying to help." __________________ FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS
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Reflecting Scotland's own legal system, which differs from that of the rest of the United Kingdom, the
Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission  (SCCRC) was established in April 1999. All cases accepted by the SCCRC are subjected to a robust and thoroughly impartial review before a decision on whether or not to refer to the High Court of Justiciary is taken. __________________ Hey that shark has pretty teeth dear and he shows 'em pearly white.
Just a jackknife has Macheath dear And he keeps it way out of site.
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A TERRIBLE INJUSTICE
16 April 2006
MORE than 80 years ago, in an obscure motoring case, a long-forgotten Lord Chief Justice uttered words that have echoed down the decades. Justice, he said, should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.
It has been a cornerstone safeguard of the British legal system ever since. But no longer. The trial of Angela and Ian Gay, found guilty of killing their adopted son by force-feeding him salt, was the latest in a worryingly long list of cases where evidence has been withheld from juries. So much so their convictions were quashed and a retrial ordered.
The Gays were jailed for five years after being found guilty of killing three-year-old Christian Blewitt by salt poisoning. A cruel, horrible thing to do. But not, apparently, unusual. According to a medical paper published in 1993 such poisoning is widespread. So much credence was given to this paper that the judge mentioned it five times in his summing-up. Sounds damning. But the paper's author was the discredited paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow - and there was equally compelling evidence pointing in the opposite direction that was never put before the jury. New medical evidence has suggested Christian's body may have been unable to regulate his salt levels.
Social services failed to disclose that the boy - whose mother was a teenage drug addict - had a long and complex medical history. His natural grandmother revealed he had been "allergic" to salt since birth. She knew this "ages ago" and the local social services were aware of the problem. The jury heard none of this. It is quite possible that if they had the verdict would have been different.
Such an incomplete picture of the facts is a travesty of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As were the murder trials of schoolteacher Sion Jenkins and former soldier Andrew Wragg, who killed his disabled son.
Evidence was suppressed, resulting in a less complete picture of what may or may not have happened. The "expert" evidence of Sir Roy Meadow was enough to ruin the lives of Sally Clark and Angela Cannings, condemning them to years in jail, even though such evidence isn't fact, just opinion.
Our judicial system, in spite of its pomp and majesty, is a delicate flower. It is easily misled, fiddled and conned. Its servants have done some terrible things while glorying in its name. If justice is not only blind but incompetent, the basic fabric of society is threatened by its unjust and savage consequences. Whatever the truth about the tragic death of little Christian Blewitt, the jury was not told it all. Justice unseen is justice denied. Justice denied leads to a jungle where the strong destroy the weak. This is happening too often. And too often the result is the same.
Innocent people condemned to a lifetime of misery from which they will never recover.
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Crime appeal pay-outs cut by £5m
Angela Cannings is still waiting for compensation
Spending on compensation paid to those wrongly convicted of crimes is to be cut by £5m a year, Home Secretary Charles Clarke has announced.
Those who win their appeals at the first attempt will get no compensation. Others who have spent years in prison will see any pay-outs capped.
Individual awards will be limited to £500,000 to bring them in line with the maximum amount paid to victims.
Campaigners say the cut ignores the impact of wrongful convictions.
The highest payout given to the victim of a miscarriage of justice was £2.1m.
A discretionary compensation scheme, introduced in 1985, which paid out £2m a year would be scrapped immediately because it had become "increasingly anomalous", Mr Clarke said.
Scrapping that scheme means people will not be allowed compensation if their cases have been quashed while going through the normal appeal process - winning at the first attempt.
And new limitations will be placed on claimants under a statutory scheme - which will remain in force - which currently pays out £6m a year.
"The changes I have announced today will create a fairer, simpler and speedier system for compensating miscarriages of justice," Mr Clarke said.
"These changes will save more than £5m a year which we will plough back into improving criminal justice and support for victims of crime."
Mr Clarke also announced an "urgent" ministerial review of the legal test used by the Court of Appeal to quash criminal convictions which, he said, could lead to a change in the law.
DISCRETIONARY SCHEME CRITERIA
Person eligible to apply if found to be wrongly convicted
Upon application, Secretary of State makes a decision and appoints assessor
Amount paid for "suffering and harm to reputation" judged by factors including:
i) Seriousness of offence and severity of punishment ii) Conduct of investigation and prosecution of the offence
Source: Criminal Justice Act 1988
He said the review would look into "what extent an error in the trial process necessarily means a miscarriage of justice".
The new system would rule out damages being awarded to someone like Angela Cannings, who was wrongly convicted of killing two of her sons.
She served 20 months in prison for murder before her convictions were overturned on her first appeal.
Her solicitor Bill Bache told BBC News the proposals did not recognise the impact of miscarriages of justice on people's lives.
"Simply because the perpetrator of the injustice against one group of people is the state as opposed to say a criminal in the street or something of that kind, why should there be a distinction between those two?"
Gerry Conlon, who was wrongly jailed for the 1974 Guildford pub bombings, said the changes were unacceptable.
"This is not something where you spend 15 years in jail and then walk out and continue a normal life," he told BBC News.
"Lives have been ruined, lives are in tatters and we need help."
Human rights group Justice said the proposal "smacks of robbing Peter to pay Paul".
"To disqualify people who may have spent many months in custody from the scheme is a cynical attack on people who have already suffered enough at the hands of the state," said Sally Ireland from Justice.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said the announcement was an "extraordinary reflection of the values" of the government.
"Both victims of crime and those who have suffered a miscarriage of justice should be compensated in a fair fashion that reflects the impact of their suffering.
"In the case of a miscarriage, the need is overwhelming because it is the state that instigated proceedings in the first place."
Yes, of course these payments should be cut, and eventually abolished. We are all responsible for our lives and if we've been wrongly imprisoned and have lost everything as a result, it is up to us as resourceful individuals to hold our heads high and rebuild our lives through our own efforts and not continually rely on the taxpayer to bail us out.
Mr Jangles, Milton Keynes, UK
This is outrageous! Anyone who has spent time in prison - around 2 years in most cases - will have seen their lives destroyed, and now to hear that they will not be compensated will simply add to the injustice. Apparently, under this Government, it's YOUR fault if you are wrongly convicted !
T. Hedley, Sheffield, UK
As a lawyer it is clear to me that the state has a greater duty to compensate those it has directly harmed by bringing prosecutions which result in unsafe convictions under rules set by the state than it does to those the state indirectly harms by failing to provide adequate policing, detection and prevention of crime and sentencing for convicted criminals to prevent them suffering damage at the hands of criminals.
This is the way justice works in our country - there is a jury of members of the public, who decide guilt based on the evidence. If the evidence was good enough to convince them, then why should compensation be due? Compensation should only be for negligence or malice. If evidence was falsified then, yes, you have a case for compensation, but otherwise it is a small risk of having an open justice system.
Jon M, Reading, UK
The government wants to bring in line compensation so they can give more to victims. This seems to be ignoring the fact people who have had their lives ruined by miscarriages of justice are victims.
Anthony Rose, Manchester
This is another policy that attempts to paper over the cracks caused by our justice system. Wrongly convicted individuals are placed in horrendous conditions, suffer terrible psychological damage and at the end of it if they have been wrongly convicted they are now going to get robbed of any decent compensation. This policy is clearly short sighted.
Paul Delaney, Bellshill, Lanarkshire
This is absurd and an outrage! Victims of miscarriages of justice ARE victims of a crime: the most appalling form of criminal negligence and legal malpractice, with the state as perpetrator!
Rog, Amersham, UK
The problem is that the victims of crime are paid too little to start with! If I earn 100K per year and lose my job because of a wrongful conviction why should I spend years trying to get adequate compensation when I have been left penniless (possibly lost my home) through no fault of my own? Surely compensation is designed to ensure that the authorities do their utmost to ensure that it should hardly ever be payable for miscarriages of justice.
Mark, Ashbourne, UK
__________________ The TRUTH is out there...........
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Proposals to reduce the
compensation paid to those wrongly convicted of crimes are inimical to the public interest. Someone who is wrongfully convicted of a crime is cast by the state into an unimaginably grotesque nightmare. The injury to the victim of a miscarriage of justice is very deep and enduring.
The Government is concerned that some victims of miscarried justice receive more than some victims of crime. That, however, could clearly be justified. The injury to an innocent person whose life is irreversibly ruined by being thrown in jail for an awful crime is sometimes much worse than that suffered by a random assault. Prison can be a brutal experience and must be an enhanced agony for the wrongly convicted.
Beneath the current proposals seems to be a tacit and sinister idea that those who have been convicted, even if their appeals succeed, are in some way still not quite as innocent as “ordinary victims of crime”, and therefore should get less compensation.
A Home Office spokeswoman has said the new measures would ensure compensation paid for a miscarriage of justice was "more proportionate to the level of injustice experienced and more in line with compensation payments made to victims of crime". This reasoning needs to be run in reverse to produce the desirable result. There is nothing wrong with compensation levels currently paid to victims of "assault through improper imprisonment". If the recompense paid to victims of other crimes seems comparatively paltry, clearly it needs to be improved and brought up to the levels of that paid to victims of miscarried justice.
The plans propose that those who win their appeals at the first attempt will get no compensation because such vindication represents the normal working of the appeals process. That is not a good idea. The courts should be free to decide in appropriate cases that compensation is warranted. If an appeal revealed that the conduct of police, prosecutors, witnesses or other parts of the system were utterly reprehensible, it is no answer to the mentally mangled victim of the violence against him or her to say “well, thankfully, the appeal system worked fine, so pick yourself up, you are free to go. Sorry!”
Even if there has been no badly reprehensible conduct, there is an argument for compensation. If you were locked in your hotel room all day because of a defective room lock, the hotelier would offer amends even if the broken lock was not in any ways its fault, or the imprisonment something it could have reasonably solved more quickly than it did. Why should the state, in which such massive social trust is reposed, be allowed to behave with such icy indifference to those whom its workings have injured?
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4.15pm update Victims say payment caps are unjust Staff and agencies Wednesday April 19, 2006
Gerry Conlon with a letter from Tony Blair apologising for being wrongly convicted of the Guildford pub bombings. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Victims of miscarriages of justice today condemned government plans to limit compensation payments for people wrongly convicted of crimes.
The victims, who include men wrongly convicted for IRA bombings and mothers wrongly jailed for killing their children, expressed dismay at the home secretary, Charles Clarke's announcement that individual compensation payments would be capped at £500,000. This would be less than a quarter of the largest payouts for wrongful convictions under the current system.
Mr Clarke announced a highly significant ministerial review of the legal test currently used by the court of appeal to quash criminal convictions. It will examine to what extent an error in the trial process necessarily leads to a miscarriage of justice, he said.
Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four wrongly imprisoned for an IRA bombing in 1974, said he was "absolutely horrified" as victims of miscarriages of justice were sent into a "living hell". He labelled the home secretary's plan to slash overall compensation payments by £5m a year as a "penny-pinching, vote-catching exercise".
The capping of specific payments at £500,000 brings them in line with the maximum amount paid to victims of crime.
But solicitor John Batt, part of the legal team that successfully appealed against Sally Clark's wrongful conviction in 1999 for killing two of her children, said comparing victims of crime with victims of miscarriages of justice was like comparing "apples with pears".
Mr Batt said he was "not aware of any excess payments" to victims of miscarriages of justice "or any payments that could be described as excessive."
A discretionary compensation scheme set up by former home secretary Douglas Hurd in 1985 will be scrapped immediately, Mr Clarke said. That scheme paid out £2m a year.
A statutory scheme which currently pays out £6m a year will remain in force but a number of new limitations will be placed on claimants. Mr Clarke said he planned to bring in new laws so that compensation could be reduced to zero because of previous criminal convictions or other conduct by the applicant.
Scrapping the discretionary scheme means people who have been wrongly convicted will not be able to apply for compensation if their cases have been quashed while going through the normal appeal process. Instead they will have to sue for compensation through the civil courts.
Mr Clarke said: "I propose to examine whether, and if so to what extent, an error in the trial process necessarily means a miscarriage of justice. I will consult upon the results of this review as soon as possible. If a change in the law is needed, we will propose it."
A review of this kind was previously recommended by Lord Justice Auld, who proposed allowing the court of appeal to come back with a "not proven" verdict similar to the option available under Scottish law.
Mr Clarke said: "What I think individuals want to see is a situation where the court at all levels could properly assess the likelihood of an individual who is charged with a crime."
Mr Clarke confirmed that one possible option could be to extend the not proven verdict to courts in England and Wales.
"We are going to have a look at it," he said. "It would be a big change. It would be a radical change. The time has come to assess it."
Average final awards for wrongful conviction have increased from about £170,000 in 2003-4 to more than £250,000 in 2005-6, according to Home Office figures. The highest award was £2.1m. In comparison the average award to a victim of crime is just £5,000.
Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six who were wrongfully convicted of the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings, said the announcement had "got nothing to do with justice".
Mr Hill, who says was tortured by the now disbanded West Midlands Serious Crime Squad while in custody, said: "What people seem to forget is that every time you go out on the streets you are liable to be a victim of a crime, what you do not expect is to be tortured and framed and to have evidence falsified against you by the police."
The shadow home secretary, David Davis, described the plans as "an extraordinary reflection of the values of this government."
He said: "Both victims of crime and those who have suffered a miscarriage of justice should be compensated in a fair fashion that reflects the impact of their suffering. In the case of a miscarriage, the need is overwhelming because it is the state that instigated proceedings in the first place."
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, said: "Cutting compensation to people who have suffered sometimes very serious miscarriages of justice cannot be a mere cost-cutting exercise. In some cases people's livelihoods are left utterly destroyed, even if they subsequently win an appeal."
Surjit Singh Clair, spokesman for the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO), described the plans as "awful" and predicted a flood of appeals to Europe by victims of miscarriages of justice.
He said victims of miscarriages of justice were already having large parts of their compensation deducted to pay for the "privilege" of board and living expenses in prison.
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Blair apology: Your reaction
Tony Blair has made a public apology to members of the Conlon and Maguire families who were victims of one of the UK's biggest miscarriages of justice.
The prime minister said that he was sorry that the families "were subject to such an ordeal and injustice".
The Court of Appeal quashed the sentences of the Guildford Four in 1989 and two years later it overturned the sentences on the Maguire Seven. The bid by the Conlon and Maguire families followed a substantial campaign in Ireland.
Should Tony Blair have made a public apology to the Conlon and Maguire families? Should he have made the apology in the Commons? Should he have gone any further? This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
If an apology helps to heal the wounds of the Conlon and Maguire familiy then we should commend Blair. In the meantime the people of Northern Ireland should receive an apolgy from all their politcians for the current lack of progress in the peace process.
Brendan, N. Ireland
Great, but many of the responses so far are forgeting that it was the fault of the evidence at the time, not the justice system or individuals per se. Both sides I hope, have grown up since then. Next stage surely in this era of openess, working together and striving for the future, should be an apology from Sinn Fein for the incident. If not why not? It takes both sides to admit wrongs of the past and work together for the future.
Sara, SE England
It's never too late to apologise for a wrong doing. He has proved to be a good leader who dares to stand up for his convictions and the rights, no matter the odds. Time that he is clearing the skeletons left behind by his predecessors. Time will tell that he is a great leader.
Another grasp at votes from Mr Blair. What a joke this man is. Does everyone who has been found innocent after being imprisoned now get an apology face to face with the prime minister, I think not unless it's a vote winner.
Shaun Peck, Hull, England
If the Conlon and Maguire families are genuinely innocent of these crimes then they deserve an apology from the government as well as the huge financial compensation and free legal aid they have received. But let's not forget they were convicted on the best evidence available at the time. Let's not forget that several of those convicted were active criminals with strong Irish Republican affiliations. Finally, let's not forget that since 1974 Sinn Fein/IRA knew exactly who was guilty of the bombings and who wasn't. An apology from Gerry Adams might be more appropriate.
Roger, London, England.
I think it is a disgrace that it has taken so long for an apology to be made. Why was it not made back in 1989? I hope these families have received substantial compensation for the trauma they experienced.
If he can apologise to the Conlons and Maguires for 15 years, perhaps he can now apologise to the rest of us for 45 minutes.
Adam, London, UK
Mr Blair should be admired and applauded, whatever your political persuasions, for the apology he made. It draws a line under a very shameful episode within the police and judicial systems.
Chris Telford, London, UK
Blair apologised for one reason and one reason alone - his election team told him to do so. His pathetic "I could apologise" speech at conference, over Iraq, didn't wash with the electorate. He's made an apology to make us think that he can apologise. The injustice suffered by the Conlons and the Maguires should be acknowledged, but for the right reasons and not because Campbell, Milburn and Mandelson think it'll make Blair seem conciliatory in an election year.
Matt Goodinson, London
Unless Mr Blair is prepared to apologise over every miscarriage of justice I don't see why he should choose to apologise for this one. Cynically I would say that this apology may have more to do with the current electioneering than anything else. If he wishes to apologise then he could start by apologising for the war which he was responsible for.
At least he had the guts to say sorry, some prime ministers don't.
This apology is long overdue. The Conlon and Maguire families are very generous in their graceful acceptance.
Muriel Cawdery, Athlone, Ireland
What about the bombing victims - is the case closed for them? Someone committed these dreadful crimes and has never been brought to justice and from the sound of this never will.
Some of you just don't seem to get it, these people were innocent. This is not about the IRA bombing, this is about the judicial system using scapegoats to appease the British public. Yes the apology should have been made but a long time ago.
Yes, Tony Blair should have made the apology because it clearly means so much to Mr Conlon and his family. The man needed his name to be cleared publicly and he is patently very pleased with this apology. Shame it had to take so long.
Sally Burgess, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, Wales
This seems to me a case of - better late than never. Of course an apology is due, and it should be made by the present leader of the country, regardless whether or not he was involved in the miscarriage of justice. The House, as the seat of Parliament, is the right place for such an apology. I can't help wondering how these people sneering would have handled it? Although an apology from all the paramilitary organisations in Ulster would be a leap forward, we have to work with what we've got. A Prime Minister who is prepared to take it on the chin on behalf of the Police and Politicians of that era, whose main aim was to be seen to be doing something, regardless.
John McCullagh, Bristol, England
If they can incorrectly jail people for terrorist acts in 1989 in front of a court of 12 jurors we can only expect more miscarriages of justice when there is only government appointed people to judge these cases in the future.
N Morgan, Halifax, UK
It is entirely appropriate for Tony Blair, as Prime Minister of the UK, to apologise to the Maguire and Conlon families for the injustice that was done to them by the British state. It is a pity that one of his predecessors did not offer this apology earlier. I don't think that this is a stunt by Blair, he is responding to a request by the families.
Alan, Galway, Ireland
I'm sure there are other things our beloved PM could be apologising for too. I suppose this is a start. Compensation for the families affected would be a good next step.
Lachlan, Glasgow, Scotland
I applaud the government for the apology. However, I am confused as this is the same government that wishes to place people under house arrest despite there being no charges. They have also imprisoned a number of people who have not been found guilty or even charged. I suspect that there will be an apology for them in about 30 years!
Martin, Whitehaven, UK
Why should Mr. Blair be apologising for something he had no control over? He has control over the current war - how about the apology due to the nation for that muck up?
Richard Lee, Chelmsford, U.K
I am appalled that people are implying that this apology should not have been forthcoming because the victims of the pub bombings haven't had one. Wake up Britain - 2 wrongs don't make a right, this country has done things to be ashamed of, Blair was right to apologise
Samantha Wright, London
This underpins why it is so important that the police are not a tool of their political masters. They should be totally independent of the Home office. The plain fact is that the victims of the pub bombings cannot have their lives back. The IRA wins again not only because it will never come clean over the issue but because it can make political capital out of this. When Gerry Adams or McGuiness stand up and make a full and public apology and say what went on so that the guilty can be arrested, then this might be a start. Now I am appalled when any person is wrongfully convicted, but have the public been duped again and is this only a political ploy to keep Bertie Ahern on side?
Tony, Welling Kent
These men were convicted by a jury based on Police evidence. "The Government" and "The Judiciary" are not (we hope) able to influence the deliberations in the jury room. The fault, if fingers need to be pointed, therefore lies with the quality of the evidence produced for the prosecution. It follows that any Ministerial apology is entirely synthetic and political in nature.
Frank Holden, Dolton Devon
So Tony Blair has made an apology, surely all that matters is whether or not the families concerned are happy - and it seems they are
Debbie Sheppard, Tadworth, Surrey
Tony Blair is a politician. Not a head of state. By taking this step he is effectively admitting these convictions were a political act, and the people political prisoners. Is this apology meant as some kind of sop to the people who have argued this for years?
Terry G, UK
I agree that as a country we should apologise for our mistakes, and over Ireland we have made many over hundreds of years. And I can see the tradition of prime ministers apologising for their predecessors "errors". Can we therefore expect the next Prime Minister (Mr G Brown) to apologise to those 1000's of dead Iraqi's who have been killed since Mr Blair decided to take this country to war to free the people.
NH Boot, Sheffield
No amount of apologies can right the dreadful wrongs that were done first to the victims of the bombings and their families and then to those wrongly convicted and their families. Some on here have accused Tony Blair of cynical opportunism but the true cynics are those who cannot accept that it is possible for politicians to act genuinely and responsibly.
I don't think that a simple apology is enough! I think that the state of Great Britain should put its money where its mouth is and give financial retribution to the afflicted families. We are talking here of the State having brought so much unhappiness and problems to these families and their members! I think it is not a mere question of the PM apologising by word of mouth! It should be translated into more, much more than that!
Franco Farrugia, Malta
Looking at the comments made by the families, it seems to have given them some closure and something positive. Can we expect the same from Sinn Fein for the people of Guildford?
Blair's apologised for the fact that the courts locked up four men by mistake. As a step towards ensuring this doesn't happen again, the Home Secretary recently announced that in future the courts won't be involved!
Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, UK
Mr Ahern and Mr Blair seem to have forgotten about the actual victims of the Guildford bombings. I think it would have been appropriate if the IRA also issued an apology today to the victims and families of the deceased caused by this terrible atrocity.
Neil Lane, London
I see the Tony Blair knockers are out in force today. It is part of a long tradition for prime ministers to apologise for things that did not happen on their watch. It is also part of a long tradition for people to want apologies from "the Government". In this instance he is acting as a figurehead not as an individual.
Louise B, Liverpool, UK
I'm amazed at some of the comments that I've read here about Blair's motives. He's apologising because he has been asked to by the families and Bertie Ahern and because no-one in Britain has done so before. Not for his own gains, or at his own choice of timing. I'm glad he has done this, it's a shame no-one had the bottle before.
Why is Tony Blair making an apology, and why now? What is the agenda? Things are never what they seem.
Chris Parker, Buckingham
I am one of the victims of the Guildford Bombings and am unable express the shock I felt when I heard about Mr Blair's apology to the Conlon and Maguire families imprisoned for the Guildford Bombings. I am wondering when myself, other victims, and relatives of the deceased as a result of IRA atrocities can expect an apology from the IRA. I can remember that night in Guildford as if it happened one week or a month ago, never mind thirty years ago.
How can Tony Blair apologise for something he bears no responsibility for? Oh yes good publicity!
Rose, Bristol, UK
It's easy for Tony Blair to apologise for someone else's mistakes, but I'd prefer it if he started apologising for some of his own!
Tony Brooks, Cambridge, UK
I'm happy for the Conlon and Maguire families, but intrigued by the timing. He's had so many years to do this. There's an election coming up and he's at his least popular since becoming leader of the Labour Party, let alone PM.
These families have been, as your site states, "victims of one of the UK's biggest miscarriages of justice". An apology should have been forthcoming as soon as this was known, rather than 20 years after the event itself. An apology in the Commons would, however, have been a more representative and fitting way to apologise for wrongfully detaining these people and depriving them of their liberty. A small price to pay in comparison.
First of all I appreciate the suffering felt by the two families and this should in no way be a reflection on them but they have been used by Blair in the most callous way. If he wants to call them and personally (and privately) apologise in sympathy then that's his right to do so. However he has no right or reason to make such a statement for any other body. This smacks to me of yet another Blair publicity stunt I'm afraid.
Ieuan Johns, Port Talbot, UK
The apology in principle was the right thing to do, the miscarriage of justice is exceptional in the number of closely related people who were imprisoned incorrectly simply for being associates. But at the end of the day, Blair is not responsible for this - that government is long gone. It would have been better for the apology to have been made in Parliament where it can be recorded into Hansard and where it can be endorsed by the representatives of the British people.
David Bourne, Aberystwyth, Wales
I am not comfortable about a prime minister making an apology for what must be a judicial mistake. It smacks too much of publicity for Tony Blair.
Noel Dobson, York, N. Yorks
Where is justice for victims of the Guilford pub bombings? Where is the justice for the victims of the Birmingham pub bombs? When is someone like Jim Sheridan going to make an film of an ordinary family in Guilford or Birmingham whose family member went out one night to enjoy a quiet drink but never came home? Gerry Conlon is alive to plead his case for an apology, the victims of Guilford and Birmingham are not.
Mike Neal, Manchester, UK
So Mike from Manchester and Derek from Birmingham think there shouldn't be an apology to people who were wrongly imprisoned until the actual bombers also apologise? Do they not understand what 'miscarriage of justice' means?
No - why should he? It was not his mistake and he was not even in power then. Politicians should keep out errors made in the judicial system.
Ged, Westbury, UK
Apologies are all well and good, if they are reciprocated. The people of Birmingham are STILL waiting for a sincere apology for the bombings of November 1974.
Given the intense politicisation of the intelligence gathering arm of the security forces at the time of the Conlon/Maguire sagas, I think it fitting that Tony Blair should apologise, as an authority figure. These families suffered terribly, and it is the systems that run the country which should take the blame.
P. D. Cooper, Aberystwyth, Wales
OK, he has apologised to these people, despite not being responsible for what happened to them. Can we now expect him to apologise to all the people in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay who suffered at least in part as a result of his decisions?
Max Sommers, Athens, Greece
It's good practice for him. He's got all those currently held without benefit of trial etc to think about.
Deborah Parr, Cambridge, England
It's not for Tony Blair to apologise as he's had no input to the case. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary of the day should have apologised.
Frank, Leeds, UK
No. The apology should have come in 1989. It's a disgrace that they had to wait all these years.
The Conlon and Maguire families have suffered terribly, but in Britain the judiciary and parliament are meant to be independent of each other. Politicians shouldn't be accountable for judges (and the police's) mistakes. Blair wasn't even an MP when they were sentenced and the convictions were overturned under Thatcher. I fail to see what he's got to do with it.
On whose behalf is he apologising? The police, CPS, jury, judge, the public? It's the worst kind of gesture politics and completely meaningless.
Anonymous __________________ FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS
Registered: 1137680579 Posts: 8,395
Reply with quote
On 23 December 1990 Patrick Quinn was arrested for being drunk
and was taken to Hammersmith police station. In the early hours
of 24 December 1990, Christmas Eve, Malcolm Kennedy was also
arrested for being drunk and taken to Hammersmith police station.
He was put in a large cell. He did not notice any other person in
the cell as he sat down on a bench and fell asleep. In his drunken
sleep he heard shouting and banging. He was awoken by a commotion
in the cell.
Two men seemed to be fighting and one was clearly a policeman.
Kennedy tried to separate them and was struck on his forehead and
When he came to, he saw a man lying on the cell floor in front of him.
He called out to him, 'Are you all right?' and tried to lift him up several
times but the man did not respond at all.
That man turned out to be Patrick Quinn and he was dead.
These are the circumstances in which Malcolm Kennedy came to be
charged and tried for the murder of Patrick Quinn.
At the first trial he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
He appealed against this to the Court of Appeal who quashed his
conviction and ordered a retrial.
During the course of the retrial new evidence suddenly appeared from
the police and a second retrial was ordered.
Kennedy was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to nine years imprisonment.
A second appeal is still pending.
An excellent pamphlet raises severe doubts about Kennedy's
conviction and demonstrates how difficult it is for someone who
accuses the police of committing a crime to obtain justice through
our legal system.
No police officer was convicted of any crime in the Guilford Four and Birmingham Six cases.
Nor in the Tottenham and Cardiff Three cases.
What, you might ask, about the Police Complaints Authority, whose
dutyit is to investigate a complaint of violent police crime?
As the pamphlet states, 'If a complaint arises directly out of a criminal
charge being brought, that complaint cannot be investigated until after
the criminal case has been completed...
But police officers are obviously aware that if the complainant is
convicted there is no basis for the complaint.
'Victims of violent police crime who are charged with criminal offences
have their complaints investigated immediately.
Therefore it is in the interests of every police officer who commits a
violent criminal offence to arrest and charge their victim.
From the outset Malcolm Kennedy maintained his innocence for the
murder of Patrick Quinn and blamed the police for it.
The police charged Malcolm Kennedy with the murder.
His complaint that the police were responsible could not be investigated
by the Police Complaints Authority until long afterwards.
Forensic evidence needed to be obtained immediately.
Despite this there were a number of difficulties with the case against Kennedy:
Quinn's injuries were severe multiple injuries, including a broken nose.
To his head and face and serious neck injuries, includinga broken
He also had 33 broken ribs and a crushed heart.
Kennedy had one injury to his head, not at all consistent with his
having been involved in a drunken brawl.
Other bizarre factors were that virtually all the police officers on
duty that night lost their notebooks.
Witnesses were found with the help of
World in Action which
contradicted times given by the police and showed that certain
police officers appeared to be aware of Quinn's death earlier than
the time the police stated his body was found.
One police officer did not give evidence at the second retrial because
he was found to be suffering from episodic hypermania by the
prosecution psychiatrist, although the defence psychiatrist
maintained he could give evidence provided he took medication.
The pamphlet sets out the complex history of the case in the
setting of Hackney Community Defence Association's own research
and statistics into cases of police violence in which they
have been involved.
In addition it deals with police treatment of drunks and how they
are completely at the mercy of the police:
A high proportion of deaths in police custody are related to
Out of 183 deaths in the custody of the Metropolitan Police
between January 1985 and March 1993, 46.5 percent of cases
were drink related.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!
Support of the Free Malcolm Kennedy.
Justice for Patrick Quinn.
Campaign organised by Hackney Community Defence Association.
Hammersmith and Fulham Irish Community Forum.
Review Who killed Patrick Quinn? The framing of Malcolm Kennedy This little book would make a cracking good murder mystery, except that it isn’t fiction. It’s an account of a real brutal murder and a frame-up of an innocent man who was sentenced to nine years after three trials. The guilty have got off scot-free. The innocent man is still being persecuted by the Metropolitan Police and not being allowed to rebuild his life. On the night of 23/24 December 1990 Patrick Quinn, 56, was beaten to death in Hammersmith Police Station. Officers allege that they found him lying in a pool of blood and that Malcolm Kennedy was sat on a bench in the cell. The police claim that only Kennedy could have broken 33 of Quinn’s ribs, crushed his heart and larynx and killed him. Kennedy, who had been arrested for his own protection, as he was very drunk and incapable, tells a very different story. He says he awoke to see a police officer attacking a man in the cell. He tried to intervene but the officer knocked him unconscious. There was an injury to his head that was consistent with his account. Quinn was an Irish Republican who was openly vocal about his political opinions. He had been arrested by PC Paul Giles, a Belfast Catholic who was openly anti-republican and expressed ambitions of joining the Special Branch. Giles’s ex-wife, another partner and a neighbour claim he is violent. His ex-wife gave evidence that she washed his shirt, which was splattered with blood. Giles has left the police after allegedly having a mental breakdown and avoiding giving evidence. Another officer involved, PC Emlyn Welsh, has a record of an uncontrollable temper and domestic violence, with police having to attend when he assaulted his fiancée. Yet another officer, ex-Sergeant Edward Henery, has also left the police, avoiding 17 disciplinary charges including allegations of bullying and sexual harassment. The book tells not only a story of what appears to be a police murder but of corruption and conspiracy and it exposes Britain’s judicial system as thoroughly rotten. A police log-book has disappeared. A computerised record of police communications went missing for three years. Police uniforms were dry-cleaned before they went for forensic tests. One of the witnesses, Sgt Henery, was fined £500 for contempt of court for refusing to answer defence questions at one of the trials. The real service this book does for the tragic Patsy Quinn and the innocent Malcolm Kennedy is that it makes public a hitherto unknown, possible police motive for this brutal killing. What didn’t come out in the trials was that Quinn was known to Hammersmith police – a staunch Republican known for sticking up for himself. But there is an added twist to this almost unbelievable story, Patsy Quinn was the best friend of Joseph Fallon who had been killed by having his liver ruptured in Hammersmith Police Station three years earlier Jim Wills Who Killed Patrick Quinn? The Framing of Malcolm Kennedy is published by Revolutions Per Minute, BCM Box 3328, London WC1N 3XX. £5 __________________ Yes, all those who raged against you shall be put to shame and confusion... __________________ The TRUTH is out there...........