Guildford Four Case Brings Demands for New Look at Others
LONDON (AP) _ The admission that four people were wrongly convicted for an IRA bombing 14 years ago has brought demands for reviews of other convictions based solely on confessions.
Since the ″Guildford Four″ were exonerated Oct. 19, the Rev. Ian Paisley and other Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland have demanded a second look at the convictions of four members of the Ulster Defense Regiment for murder in 1983.
Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey was among the first to call for a review of the case of six Irish men convicted of killing 21 people in a pub bombing in Birmingham in 1974.
The Guildford appeal, coming on the heels of revelations that officers in the Midlands force had altered confessions and that some police in Kent had solicited false confessions, has raised fresh questions about the adequacy of laws on police procedure.
″It would appear that large sections of Britain’s various police forces are out of control,″ Conor Gearty, a professor of law at Cambridge University, wrote in The Irish Times after the Guildford convictions were thrown out.
But Barrie Irving, director of the Police Foundation, believes Parliament has done as much as it could do in laying down safeguards in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984. One provision of that act will require all interrogations to be tape-recorded by 1991.
However, Irving said in an interview, ″there could be more training on the positive, ethical values in police work.″
″Simply saying that the legislation is in place doesn’t mean that there isn’t an ethical problem in policing at the moment,″ he said.
On Monday, the Home Office announced preliminary compensation of $80,000 each for Gerard Conlon, 35, Patrick Armstrong, 39 and Carole Richardson, 32, who were freed after their convictions in the Guildford bombing were quashed. Paul Hill, 35, who is free on bail pending appeal of a separate murder conviction in Northern Ireland, was given $16,000.
The convictions of Conlon and Armstrong for a pub bombing in the London suburb of Woolwich were also thrown out after the court heard evidence that police had lied about their statements.
Douglas Hurd, then the home secretary, also ordered a review of the convictions of Conlon’s aunt, Annie Maguire, and six other members of her family on explosives charges.
Statements by Conlon and Hill were instrumental in convicting the seven. They included Conlon’s father, who died in prison. The other six have since been released.
Both the UDR and Birmingham cases were raised in the House of Commons in the hours after the Guildford Four were exonerated.
″The one person who brought the vital evidence has now stated publicly that she was forced by pressure from the security forces to make false statements,″ Paisley said.
James Hagan, Noel Bell, Winston Allen and Neil Latimer, all members of the locally raised British Army unit, were convicted in 1986 of the Nov. 8, 1983, murder of Adrian Carroll near his home in Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Latimer had been identified by a woman as the killer, but she later recanted her testimony. The four claim their confessions were made under duress.
Hurd told Paisley the UDR case was a matter for authorities in Northern Ireland.
He also opposed reopening the Birmingham case because it had been reviewed by an appeals court in 1987.
In that review, Hurd said, ″the court hearing lasted for more than a month and it spent five days considering the crucial point about the validity of the confessions.″
In the Guildford and Woolwich cases, there were subsequent confessions of responsibility by members of an IRA gang.
In the Birmingham case, there have been no such confessions to authorities. Chris Mullin, who wrote a book on the Birmingham case in 1986, said he interviewed three men who admitted involvement. Mullin, a member of Parliament, has not identified those men.
Over the weekend, retired detective constable Fred Willoughby, who arrested five of the six men, expressed doubts about their convictions.
″I am deeply concerned that those men could be detained in prison for the rest of their lives while there is some doubt in the case,″ The Independent newspaper quoted Willoughby as saying.
Willoughby said the men made no effort to escape, and he said details of their stories that he checked turned out to be true. However, he said, the men initially concealed the fact that at the time of their arrest, they were traveling to Belfast for the funeral of an IRA man killed in England by his own bomb.
Advocates for the Birmingham defendants were heartened by the Guildford case.
″The case has exposed fundamental flaws in the British judicial and appeals system,″ said Andrew Puddephatt, general secretary of Liberty, formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties.
A review of the Birmingham case, Puddephatt said, ″is essential to reassure members of the Irish community who increasingly feel they cannot get justice in British courts.″