1. You will be aware that the history of judicial inquiries into miscarriages of justice is not a happy one. Previous inquiries have tended to concentrate on reconvicting the defendants rather than addressing what caused them to wrongfully convict in the first place. This, you will recall, is what happened with the Brabin inquiry into the Timothy Evans case, with Sir Henry Fisher's inquiry into the Confair case and with Lord Hunter's into the conviction of Patrick Meehan.
2. As a result - and let me say at once that this is no reflection on you - expectations among informed observers of your inquiry into the Guildford and Woolwich convictions are not high. I attached a recent article from the 'New Statesman' by the former Member of Parliament, Christopher Price, which conveys a flavour of the scepticism which you will have to confront (Appendix 1). I thought you made an excellent start when at the preliminary hearing you robustly made clear to the police and their representatives that you would not hear evidence designed solely to demonstrate that the four persons whose convictions have been quashed are in fact guilty. As I am sure you are aware, within days of their release, senior members of the legal profession could be heard whispering that, while there may have been one of two irregularities in the evidence, the Guildford Four were guilty. The nearest anyone has come to saying this out loud, was an interview which Lord Hailsham gave to the television programme "World in Action" , in which he correctly, but irrelevantly emphasised that the quashed convictions did not necessarily indicate innocence, only that the guilt of the defendants could not be proven. I trust you will not go down this road. To do so would be to invite widespread ridicule and bring further discredit upon the British legal system.
3. Strenuous efforts will also be made to persuade you to limit responsibility to a handful of junior police officers, at least one of whom has the advantage of being dead. In my submission this, too, is not credible and I hope that you will also resist this court.
4. My view can be simply stated. It is that:
(i) quite apart from the manner in which the confessions were obtained, it ought to have been obvious to all concerned from the outset, that they were not credible;
(ii) from the moment that the IRA unit arrested at Balcombe Street were first interviewed, everyone concerned - up to and including the Director of Public Prosecutions - knew there was something wrong with the Guildford and Woolwich convictions;
(iii) rather than face up to the possibility of a serious miscarriage of justice, they chose instead to doctor the evidence.
5. Much has been written elsewhere about the first of these propositions. I shall address myself mainly to (ii) and (iii). Most of these matters have been dealt with in far more detail in two books with which I am sure you are familiar:- "Timebomb" by Grant McKee and Ros Franey, and "Trial and Error" by Robert Kee.
6. Finally, I shall also address the wider implications for our criminal justice system.
7. My interest in the Guildford and Woolwich case is long-standing, both as a Member of Parliament and in my previous incarnation as a journalist. I first wrote about the case, suggesting there had been a miscarriage of justice, in the 'New Statesman' on 1stJanuary, 1982. I am also the author of a book "Error of Judgement", about the case of the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings, whom I also believe to be innocent. In 1986, I conducted interviews with two of the Guildford defendants, Patrick Armstrong and Gerard Conlon, who were at that time in Gartree and Long Lartin prisons.
8. My attention was first drawn to the Guildford and Woolwich case in 1976, by Peter Chippindale, who was at that time a journalist on 'The Guardian', and who in that capacity covered the Balcombe Street trial and the Guildford and Woolwich appeal. He also attended the trial of the six people convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings. Even at that time Mr. Chippindale was firmly of the view that the wrong people had been convicted for the Guildford, Woolwich and Birmingham bombings. He said this on the basis of his attendance at court.
A SUMMARY OF THE FACTS:
9. Briefly, the facts as I understand them are these. Between October, 1974, and December, 1975, there were about sixty bombing or shooting incidents in and around London which appeared to be the work of the same IRA team. Of these the most serious were bombs planted in two Guildford pubs, the "Horse and Groom" and the "Seven Stars", and one at Woolwich, the "King's Arms", on 6th November, 1974, in which a total of seven people were killed.
10. On 28th November, 1974, Paul Hill was arrested in Southampton and his confession, which had to be redrafted many times, implicated a large number of other people. Of these, three - Gerry Conlon, Patrick Armstrong and Carol Richardson - were persuaded to confess to the Guildford and Woolwich bombings of which they were convicted in October, 1975. Another seven people, Mrs. Maguire, her family and friends, were later convicted, on the basis of controversial forensic evidence, of possessing nitroglycerine.
11. Meanwhile, very similar bombs continued to go off all over London. The bombings stopped only with the arrest in December, 1975, after a six day siege, of four IRA members who became known as the Balcombe Street gang. They were Joe O'Connell, Harry Duggan, Hugh Doherty and Eddie Butler. Within twenty-four hours of arrest Butler and O'Connell had told senior Metropolitan police officers that they, and not the four people recently convicted, were involved in the Woolwich bombing. The police officers said they would look into these claims, but there is no evidence of any further investigation. At the subsequent trial of the Balcombe street unit it emerged that the forensic evidence had been edited to remove all reference to Guildford and Woolwich.
12. At the appeal of the Guildford Four in October, 1977, Butler, Duggan, O'Connell and Brendan Dowd (who had been arrested separately), testified that they and they alone were responsible for the Woolwich bombing. Dowd also claimed that he and a young woman, who he declined to identify, had bombed the "Horse and Groom" in Guildford. O'Connell described how he, another man and a second young woman, neither of whom he named, had bombed the "Seven Stars". All said that the four persons convicted of the Guildford and Woolwich bombings had played no part. So detailed was the Balcombe Street unit's account that it was not possible to pretend that they had not been involved. Instead, the Crown suggested, they must have carried out the bombings together with the four persons already convicted, even though no link could be established between the two groups of people. The Appeal Court, headed by Lord Roskill, professed themselves satisfied and the convictions were upheld.
13. In the absence of an explanation a good deal more credible than any which has so far been advanced, I submit that from soon after the arrest of the Balcombe Street IRA unit it is inescapable that those in authority, up to the highest level, realised that innocent people may have been convicted of the Guildford and Woolwich bombings and were anxious to avoid facing up to that possibility. I set out below what I regard as the role of each main party to the obtaining and sustaining of the Guildford and Woolwich convictions.
THE SURREY POLICE:
14. No doubt there will be those who seek to persuade you that responsibility for what happened lies solely or mainly with a handful of relatively junior Surrey police officers. I, therefore, draw your attention to an intervention of the trial judge, Mr. Justice (now Lord) Donaldson during the evidence of Assistant Chief Constable Christopher Rowe. Lord Donaldson suggested it would be helpful to know how many police officers had been involved in the investigation as this would indicate the degree of collaboration needed for a conspiracy. Mr. Rowe said more than one hundred. Sir Michael Havers later said that, if the allegations of the defendants were true, then there must have been "a really gigantic conspiracy", between two police forces involving officers of all ranks. I put it to you that anyone seeking to persuade you that only a handful of officers were involved will have to address this point.
15. You will no doubt be examining in detail the manner in which the Guildford Four were persuaded to confess. Much has been written on this subject and I wish only to add that there is some evidence to suggest that the Surrey police may have realised within three or four days that they had the wrong people in custody.
16. When I interviewed Patrick Armstrong in HMP Gartree on 2nd April, 1986, he told me that, after he had been persuaded to confess, the police took him for a drive around Guildford so that he could show them the route he was supposed to have followed on his way to plant the bombs. The problem was that he had never set foot in Guildford before. I quote from my notes of the interview: "As we were leaving the police station they asked, 'what car were you in?' I pointed to one at random in the car park. They seemed surprised. 'Are you sure?', they said".
17. "In the car they kept wanting me to direct them to the pub. I had no idea. I just kept saying, 'left here'. I took them up one way streets. They were getting a bit upset. They asked where we had parked. I directed them to a double yellow line. Apparently that would have been impossible on market day. After about half an hour they took me back to the cells…".
18. "Some time later", said Armstrong, "a policeman's face appeared at the flap in the cell door. He said, 'that statement you've given to us is a load of fairy tales, isn't it?' I said 'Yes, you know I didn't do it', he said 'we know that, but we're going to do you because we need bodies' ".
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE FORENSIC SCIENCE DEPARTMENT:
19. The two forensic scientists who sifted through the ruins of "The King's Arms" at Woolwich, and the two pubs in Guildford, were Mr. Douglas Higgs and Mr. Donald Lidstone. During their evidence at the trial of the IRA unit captured at Balcombe Street, it emerged that forensic evidence linking the Guildford and Woolwich explosions with many others carried out by the Balcombe Street unit had been suppressed.
20. As regards Woolwich, Mr. Higgs told the court that he had made two statements. The first, dated 26thJanuary, 1976, which had linked the Woolwich explosion to a series later attributed to the Balcombe Street unit. The second, dated 17th June, 1976, omitted all mention of the Woolwich explosion.
21. As regards Guildford, Mr. Higgs has signed a statement, dated 10th October, 1975, which included a diagram linking the Guildford bombings to a series of bombings that had occurred after the arrest of Messrs. Armstrong, Conlon, Hill and Miss Richardson. (I note in passing that this statement was not made available to defence lawyers for these four persons). At the Balcombe Street trial Mr. Higgs made a second statement, dated 12th July, 1976, almost identical to the first, except that all reference to the Guildford bombings had been omitted.
22. Asked to account for the second version of his Woolwich statement, Mr. Higgs at first professed loss of memory. Prompted by counsel he eventually said that the omission had been made on the advice of Sergeant Doyle of the Metropolitan Police Bomb Squad.
23. As a layman, I had always understood that Home Office forensic scientists are regarded by the courts, not as witnesses for the Crown, but as impartial scientists whose evidence is available to all parties. In its submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, on 26th October, 1988, the Home Office says (para 1.1), "The main function of the forensic scientist is to provide impartial information about physical evidence recovered from the scenes of crimes". At para 2.14, the Home Office says, "Statements produced for the police and the courts are always checked. The individual reporting officer must, of course, bear personal responsibility for their statements … but there is also a corporate responsibility to ensure that all aspects of the work have been property executed and that the statement produced is both accurate and comprehensible". In his evidence to the Select Committee, the head of the Forensic Science Service, Mr. Gordon Wasserman, said (para. 70), "We see ourselves very much as the servants of the court … I think we have been scrupulous about objectivity, about quality assurance, checking statements and so on … we are forensic scientists because we are objective experts".
24. I invite you to comment on these lofty sentiments in the light of Mr. Higgs' admission that he re-wrote his evidence on instructions from the police. I also draw your attention to the generally evasive nature of Mr. Higgs' evidence, the difficulty in wringing from him the name of the police officer who asked him to change his evidence and his inability to provide any written evidence of that instruction. I also invite you to study Mr. Lidstone's testimony for evidence of similar phenomena. Finally, I remind you that this is not the first time that a Home Office forensic scientist in a case of this magnitude has been found to have adjusted his evidence on the advice of police officers. At the recent appeal hearing in the case of the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings, it emerged that the Home Office forensic scientist, Dr. Frank Skuse, had adjusted the notes taken by his assistant to make the times at which he conducted his tests square with those of the police.
THE METROPOLITAN POLICE:
25. The IRA unit captured at Balcombe Street were taken into custody on 12th December, 1975. They were Joe O'Connell, Harry Duggan, Hugh Doherty and Eddie Butler. Butler and O'Connell were interviewed the next day by Commander Jim Nevill and Detective Chief Superintendent (now Sir Peter) Imbert. They confessed to bombing "The King's Arms" at Woolwich. Later, on 30th December, O'Connell told Nevill and Imbert that four members of the Balcombe Street ASU had been responsible for Woolwich and requested a meeting with Brendan Dowd. Messrs. Nevill and Imbert, according to their notes of the meeting, both expressed concern at the possibility that innocent people had been convicted and an anxiety to get at the truth. Nevertheless, no further interviews took place. No meeting between O'Connell and Dowd was arranged. No charges or further investigation followed. Solicitors acting for four persons already convicted were not informed of the admissions. The DPP was informed but took no action.
26. When the Balcombe Street IRA unit came to trial, not only were O'Connell and Butler not charged with the Woolwich bombing, but steps had been taken to excise all reference to connections between Guildford, Woolwich and the other offences for which the Balcombe Street unit were obviously responsible were deleted from the evidence of the Home Office scientist, Mr. Douglas Higgs
27. Following Mr. Higg's admission that he had excised references to Guildford and Woolwich from his statements on the instructions of the police, Detective Chief Superintendent Hucklesby, the officer responsible for preparing the schedules of evidence for the DPP, was recalled and asked to account for the omissions. He told the court that he had relied upon instructions from the head of the Bomb Squad, Commander Nevill.
28. Commander Nevill was recalled. He told the court that, at the instigation of the DPP, he had instructed Mr. Higgs to remove the reference to Woolwich from his statement.
29. DCS Hucklesby also confirmed that the police had drawn up a list of sixty offences which they attributed to the IRA unit arrested at Balcombe Street. These included a number of bombings in the Autumn of 1974, culminating in the bombing of "The King's Arms" at Woolwich on 7th November, 1974 - the biggest incident on the entire list. Asked why these had been omitted from the charges, Mr. Hucklesby replied that he had done so at a conference with counsel "following my first major report to the Director of Public Prosecutions".
30. It was put to Mr. Hucklesby that, in addition to the forensic evidence linking the Balcombe Street IRA unit to the Woolwich bombing, there were also the confessions of two of the Balcombe Street unit, Butler and O'Connell. He replied, "I submitted it to the Director of Public Prosecutions as such, yes".
31. DCS Imbert was recalled and invited to explain why he and Commander Nevill had failed to follow up admissions by Butler and O'Connell about Woolwich. He was only spared the embarrassment of having to provide a detailed explanation, by the intervention of Mr. Justice Cantley who said that the Balcombe Street trial was not the proper forum in which to discuss the matter. May I put it to you, that the logical place for Sir Peter Imbert and his colleagues to be questioned on this matter is the present inquiry. No doubt you, Sir, will give Sir Peter the opportunity to testify that he was denied fourteen years ago.
32. It is my submission that, whatever explanation Sir Peter and his colleagues may now furnish, for the failure to charge ……………………………………… Balcombe Street IRS unit with the Woolwich bombing, the conclusion is inescapable that those in authority wished to avoid the embarrassment of owning up to a mistake and that everyone involved in the Woolwich and Balcombe Street cases, up to and including the Director of Public Prosecutions, connived at this.
33. Although Messrs. Nevill, Hucklesby and Sir Peter Imbert - not to mention Messrs. Higgs and Lidstone - will no doubt be outraged at the suggestion that they deliberately suppressed (albeit at the request of the DPP) evidence that might have led to the acquittal of the Guildford Four, many other people in court appear to have understood what was going on:
*** 'The Guardian' journalist, Peter Chippindale, alreadymentioned (see 8 above).
*** Mr. Ian MacDonald, counsel for Joe O'Connell, a memberof the Balcombe Street unit, drew attention to the implicationsfor the Guildford Four, during his cross examination of thesecond forensic scientist, Donald Lidstone. Mr. MacDonaldwas prevented by Mr. Justice Cantley from elaborating.
*** Joe O'Connell spelled it out in words of one syllable in hisspeech from the dock. I attached a copy of the relevantpassage (Appendix 2). I appreciate that it may be argued that,as a member of the IRA, he was unworthy of belief. I merelydraw your attention to the inescapable fact that Mr. O'Connell'sversion of events appears to have stood the test of time and thatoffered by people who credentials were apparently impeccablehas not.
*** The jury appear to have realised that something was wrong.Hence their decision to acquit the Balcombe Street unit of fiveof the charges that appeared to be linked to the Guildfordexplosions. I draw your attention to the juror quoted on page387 of "Timebomb": "… we were, in a way, rebelling againstbeing rail-roaded by the court into unanimous verdicts of guilty:as if we were just there to rubber-stamp what the court, theprosecution and the police wanted; as if it was all a foregoneconclusion. Some of us got very upset. We thought it wasimmoral … We definitely felt that at least some (of theBalcombe Street defendants) were connected with Guildfordand Woolwich".
THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS:
34. It is apparent even to the casual observer the trail of responsibility for this disaster leads remorselessly to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the late Sir Norman Skelhorne.
35. Sir Peter Imbert and Commander Nevill both say that they reported to the DPP the admissions made to them by Eddie Butler and Joe O'Connell in December, 1975, regarding their role in the Woolwich bombing.
36. DCS Hucklesby, in his evidence at the Balcombe Street trial, was asked at what stage he had been asked to omit from his list of offences attributed to the Balcombe Street unit the Woolwich bombing and four others that appeared to be linked. He replied, "This was discussed following the submission of my first major report to the DPP at a conference with counsel".
37. Commander Nevill told the court at the Balcombe Street trial that he had instructed Mr. Higgs to remove the references to Woolwich from his statement at the instigation of the DPP.
38. I am sure you will wish to establish precisely what Messrs. Imbert, Nevill and Hucklesby reported to the DPP, to whom, with what recommendations and what action was taken. It would also be of interest to establish the extent to which Crown counsel were involved.
SIR MICHAEL HAVERS:
39. May I say at the outset that I naturally appreciate that it is the role of counsel to act upon instructions offered by their client. In the case of Sir Michael Havers, of course, his client was the DPP. You may take the view, however, in the light of what has now emerged, that Sir Michael Havers and his juniors have some serious questions to answer.
40. Sir Michael Havers represented the Crown at the trials of the Guildford Four, Mrs. Maguire and her family and at the re-trial/appeal of the Guildford Four. He is, therefore, probably the person who can lay claim to the most detailed knowledge of this affair. I respectfully submit that any inquiry that passed without the benefit of his experience would be deficient.
41. You may take the view that he was simply a lawyer doing his professional duty. You may, on the other hand, want to ask Sir Michael whether, at any time during his prosecution of the Guildford Four solely on the basis of confessions which were woefully inadequate, he was ever visited by the slightest twinge of doubt.
42. You might also want to ask Sir Michael whether, during his prosecution of Mrs. Maguire and her family on the basis of a single flawed, forensic test, it ever occurred to him - as it did to many others - that they were the most unlikely IRA bombers ever to cross the path of the Metropolitan Police or, for that matter, any other police force.
43. You will, in any case, I am sure want to establish what role, if any, Sir Michael or his junior, Michael Hill, played in the suppression of Gerry Conlon's alibi? At the trial Sir Michael said that Conlon had no alibi and yet it has now been established that the DPP knew of alibi evidence for Conlon that had not been disclosed. Were Sir Michael or his juniors consulted about the decision to suppress Conlon's alibi?
44. Further, were Sir Michael or his juniors consulted about the decision to suppress evidence that members of the Balcombe Street IRA unit had been responsible for the Guildford and Woolwich bombings? Were Crown counsel consulted when the DPP decided to suggest to Messrs. Hucklesby and Nevill that all reference to Guildford and Woolwich should be excised from the forensic evidence? Were Sir Michael and his colleagues consulted about the decision not to investigate the claim by O'Connell and Butler that they were involved in the Woolwich bombing?
45. Sir Michael, of course, was not involved in the trial of the Balcombe Street IRA unit, but he was back in action again for the appeal of the Guildford Four in October, 1977. By now he had before him confessions from Butler, O'Connell, Duggan and Dowd, that they and they alone had been responsible for the Woolwich bombing. He also had the claims of Dowd and O'Connell that they had carried out the Guildford bombings in the company of two young women and another man. These confessions, in contrast to those which the Guildford Four had been prevailed upon to sign, were so detailed that Sir Michael did not pretend that the Balcombe Street unit had not been involved. Nor could the new confessions be any longer ignored. The only hope of sustaining the original convictions was to rewrite the script from top to bottom. This Sir Michael and his colleagues proceeded to do with ingenuity and relish.
46. For a more detailed account of the spectacular intellectual gymnastics in which the Crown, led by Sir Michael Havers, engaged in order to sustain the convictions, I refer you to chapter 36 of "Timebomb". By way of illustration I will take only one of the more ludicrous examples - Dowd's evidence that he and his colleagues had driven to Guildford in a white Avenger hired from the Victoria Station branch of Swan National on 3rd or 4th October. A check through Swan National's records confirmed that just such a car had been hired on 4th October in the name of Martin Moffitt. The signature on the agreement matched Dowd's.
47. This, of course, posed a problem for the Crown since the new script required Sir Michael and his colleagues to explain how a team of up to eight bombers - the four already convicted plus Dowd, O'Connell and the unnamed man and two young women referred to in their confessions - had travelled to Guildford. Since eight, or even six or seven people, would not fit into one car a second vehicle had to be found. A trawl back through Swan National's records produced a yellow Cortina hired in the name of R. C. Moffat. The Crown was untroubled by the fact that the spelling was different, that the signatures did not match, and that the addresses were different. Since there was nothing in the Swan National rules to prevent the same person hiring two cars simultaneously the Crown took this as a 'matter of proof' that Dowd had hired both cars. This was accepted without question by the judges. In their enthusiasm, however, no one had bothered to check the existence of the second Mr. Moffat. Had they done so, they would have discovered that he was a South African tourist.
48. I invite you to find that the correct course for Sir Michael Havers, faced with the Balcombe Street confessions, would have been to call a halt there and then to the case against four persons originally convicted. Had he done so, this scandal might have been ended twelve years earlier and the reputation of our judicial system enhanced.
49. I appreciate that, as a distinguished judge, you will be reluctant to comment on the role of your fellow judges in this affair. As a non-lawyer, however, I suffer from no such constraint.
50. The Guildford Four trial judge was Mr. Justice Donaldson, now Lord Donaldson. I do not suggest he can be accused of anything other than a rather touching naivety towards the evidence of police officers. He might also have been rather more robust in pointing out to the jury the mass of discrepancies in the alleged confessions and the dangers of convictions based solely on confessions given in police custody and subsequently repudiated. To many laymen, even without the benefit of hindsight, these confessions are wholly unbelievable and one is continually astonished by the willingness of some of our finest legal minds to take such nonsense seriously. These are wider issues which I am sure you will want to address under another heading.
51. Mr. Justice Cantley presided over the trial of the IRA unit captured at Balcombe Street. He must have realised, as did many others present, the implications of the confessions by Butler and O'Connell for offences of which other people had been convicted. He must have noticed that those confessions had been suppressed. He must have understood, as many others did, the implications of the revelation that the forensic scientists had been persuaded to edit references to Guildford and Woolwich from their evidence. So far as I know he did not speak out publicly (indeed he intervened to prevent counsel from pursuing the matter). What steps did he take privately to raise the matter with the DPP? Or did he take the view that it was none of his business?
52. Lord Justices Roskill, Lawton and Mr. Justice Boreham presided over the appeal of the Guildford Four. Unlike Lord Donaldson, they had before them the confessions of the IRA unit captured at Balcombe Street, together with that of Dowd. They must have noticed that those confessions far exceeded in credibility and accuracy the controversial statements that formed the basis of the Guildford Four convictions. They knew - indeed no one any longer disputed - that the Guildford and Woolwich bombings were the work of the same team. They knew that the Crown were unable to establish any connection between …………………………….. and yet they chose to accept uncritically a version of events which has now been shown to be an absurd fantasy.
53. The judgement of Lord Roskill and his colleagues has been widely remarked upon elsewhere and I will not dwell upon it. The most generous interpretation is that it displayed extreme gullibility, not to say stupidity - and I have never heard it alleged that Lord Roskill was stupid. Even stupidity would not account for the considerable ingenuity employed by Roskill and his colleagues to explain away what many would regard as inexplicable.
54. What is one to make of the refusal to grant a retrial? This issue has already been addressed elsewhere by Lords Scarman and Devlin, and I am sure you will not ignore it. You may recall, however, that a similar decision was made by the Court of Appeal in the recent reference back of the case of the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings. I invite you to express a view as to: (a) the legality, and (b) the wisdom of the Appeal Court retrying cases where there is significant new evidence.
55. You may be aware that there is a widely held view that senior members of the judiciary are reluctant to own up to serious mistakes for fear of discrediting the criminal justice system as a whole. I draw your attention to the interview Lord Denning gave to BBC Television in 1988 in which he expresses this view (Appendix 4), that it would be better for one or two innocent people to remain in prison than to risk the credibility of the judicial system. A member of the present Government has also privately expressed this view to me. This is widely believed to be the reason why it has taken those in authority so long to own up to the Guildford and Woolwich mistake. Perversely, I have even heard it argued that it may now be more difficult to persuade the authorities to face up to what has gone wrong in the Birmingham pub bombings case on the grounds that to admit two errors of this magnitude would inflict unbearable damage on the legal system. I make no comment on the validity or otherwise of this view. I simply invite you clearly to state for the benefit of those who hold it that nothing so damages the credibility of our legal system as the notion that some mistakes are too big to own up to.
56. I now turn to some of the more general issues arising from the Guildford and Woolwich case.
57. It will not have escaped your notice that confessions obtained in police custody and subsequently repudiated lie at the root of many of our most celebrated proven or alleged miscarriages of justice. Timothy Evans was hanged mainly on the basis of a statement obtained from him in police custody which was later discredited. The Guildford Four case depended entirely on the willingness of judge and jury to believe THERE'S A LINE MISSING HERE emerged that these were fabricated. In the West Midlands twenty people have within the last two years been either acquitted or had charges dropped despite having signed admissions of guilt while in police custody. The Birmingham pub bombings convictions rest mainly, but not entirely, on confessions obtained in police custody. The Carl Bridgewater convictions are to a large extent dependent on a confession in police custody. Perhaps the most remarkable of the alleged miscarriages of justice, is that of Winston Silcott who was convicted of murdering PC Blakelock on the basis, not of a confession, but of an ambiguous verbal remark he is alleged to have made to a police officer.
58. History record that while judges are willing to acknowledge the occasional rotten apple in a police force they have great difficulty in accepting that a large number of police officers are capable of conspiring to commit perjury. This difficulty lies at the root of the Guildford case. I draw your attention to the claim of Sir Michael Havers that if the defendants' accusations were true then there must have been "a really gigantic conspiracy" between officers of two police forces involving officers ranging in rank up to Chief Constable.
59. There are lengthy passages in Lord Donaldson's summing up which suggest his incredulity at the possibility that the confessions could have been fabricated. See, for example, page 136 of Lord Donaldson's summing up: "you may think the statements on their face at least disclose an extraordinary knowledge of the detail of the way in which these offences were committed. You may well wonder whether these particular people, three of whom you have seen in the witness box, are the sort of people who would confess to murder when they had nothing whatever to do with it…".
60. Lord Bridge, in his summing up at the Birmingham pub bombings trial, also made no secret of his incredulity. If the defendants were telling the truth, he said, the police had been involved in a conspiracy "unprecedented in the annals of British criminal history". It involved innumerable assaults and the fabrication of false evidence. "It involved giving perjured evidence in which the police must have spent many hours … trying to ensure that their various lies would accord with each other".
61. Lord Bridge went on: "Second, consider the scale of the conspiracy in terms of those involved, it ranges does it not from detective constables and police constables right up through the police hierarch … if there had been one office (our of) the whole lot who said to himself ' I cannot stomach this'. If he had reported the matter to some very senior officer or even to some independent force. If he had gone to the press and said, 'This is what is happening', the gaffe would have been well and truly blown would it not?"
62. "Consider, lastly, the subtle artistry that has gone into the preparation of these statements, if indeed they are work of fiction. If the evidence of the defendants is true, it shows the police not only to be masters of the vile techniques of cruelty and brutality to suspects. It shows them to have a very lively and inventive imagination".
63. Elsewhere, in relation to the Birmingham case, Lord Denning has spoken of the "appalling vista" that would arise should it be proven that the police had behaved in the way alleged.
64. May I put it to you that, with the discovery of the fabricated confessions in the Guildford case, the "appalling vista" has arrived. That this is the moment to acknowledge once and for all that police are capable of fabrication and conspiracy on the scale alleged. It will, of course, be argued that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act has put everything right. I am sure you will point out to anyone who seeks to persuade you of this, that all of the twenty people against whom charges have recently been dismissed or dropped confessed in the custody of West Midlands police officers occurred after the Act came into force. I invite you to recommend that confessions obtained in police custody and subsequently repudiated should no longer be admissible in a British court. Further, I invite you to recommend that convictions, such as those of the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings, which depend wholly or mainly on confessions in police custody, should be reviewed.
THE COURT OF APPEAL
65. As you will be aware, the extreme difficulty of persuading the Court of Appeal to face up to miscarriages of justice has been widely remarked upon over many years. The most extreme example being the case of Cooper and McMahon which was referred back to the Court of Appeal by four successive Home Secretaries and on each occasion rejected. Eventually the Home Secretary of the day, William Whitelaw, became so exasperated that he ordered the men to be released without so much as an apology for the ten years they had spent in prison. This problem was addressed in a report of the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1982 (Appendix 3). The Committee unanimously recommended that a Court of Last Resort be established, containing laymen and empowered to consider evidence that might be considered inadmissible in a court (for example, my claim to have traced and interviewed all four of the men responsible for the Birmingham pub bombings). Not surprisingly, the main recommendations of the Select Committee were rejected by the Home Office after consultation with the Lord Chief Justice. The Lord Chief Justice did, however, express a willingness to be more flexible in considering reference back by the Home Office (Government Reply, Cmmd 8856, para 10).
66. This has not occurred. On the contrary, in the final paragraph of his judgement of the Birmingham pub bombings appeal in January, 1987, the Lord Chief Justice said, "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". Many of us who were present, including members of the legal profession, interpreted this as a warning to the Home Secretary not to waste the court's time by referring the Guildford and Woolwich case which was then in the pipeline. Indeed it is an open secret that although the Home Secretary had doubts for some years in the Guildford case, and although under tremendous pressure to refer it, he was unwilling to do so because he could see no way of persuading the Appeal Court to take it seriously..
67. I appreciate that it may well be argued that the quashing of the Guildford and Woolwich convictions vindicates the existing system of review. I believe, however, that this view in untenable. As one who sat through both the Birmingham appeal and the quashing of the Guildford and Woolwich convictions, I am in no doubt that the Lord Chief Justice (or for that matter Lord Roskill), could have talked his way around the new evidence unearthed by the Avon and Somerset Police had they been permitted the slightest discretion by the Crown Prosecution Service. Indeed there was a similar piece of new evidence in the Birmingham case - a document known as the Reade schedule - which the author, Detective Superintendent George Reade, was unable to explain. Lord Lane said that he could not explain it either, but whatever it was he was sure it was not what counsel for the defendants alleged. A similar line of argument could have been used to dispose of the early drafts of the Guildford confessions.
68. Any credit for the quashing of the Guildford convictions should go not to the Appeal Court, but to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Allan Green, who did what his predecessor should have done years ago when first confronted with the Balcombe Street confessions.
69. I invite you to acknowledge that the present mechanism for reviewing alleged miscarriages of justice is wholly inadequate and that Lord Roskill's judgement in the Guildford appeal was yet another demonstration of its inadequacy. I further invite you to acknowledge that had a Court of Last Resort, along the lines recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee in 1982 been established, this case might have been resolved years ago and our legal system spared the great discredit into which it has been brought. If you are unable to accept a Court of Last Resort, it would be helpful if you could suggest an alternative method of dealing with alleged miscarriages that will command greater public confidence than that presently enjoyed by the Appeal Court.
THE HOME OFFICE FORENSIC SERVICE
70. I invite you to consider ways in which this service can be rendered genuinely independent of the police, the prosecuting authorities and the Home Office. The basis for this is set out in paras 19-24 above.
71. I invite you to recommend to your fellow judges that in future they be more sceptical than hitherto of police evidence, regardless of unanimity or rank
LIAISON BETWEEN THE SURREY AND WEST MIDLANDS POLICE
72. According to a Parliamentary answer dated 30th October, 1989, (Appendix 6) a team of nine Surrey police officers was working in the West Midlands area at the time of the Birmingham pub bombings investigation. Of these three were said to be still serving. As to what form this liaison took, the Home Office replied (14th November), that details were no longer available. Asked to identify the officers who visited the West Midlands, the Home Office declined. I invite you to identify the nine Surrey police officers who visited Birmingham and ask them to tell you where they went, who they saw and what they did. There is no need to take seriously the Home Office suggestion that records are no longer available. The obvious course is to contact the three officers who have been identified and who are still serving and ask them to identify the others.
73. In the first part of my evidence I have sought to persuade you that responsibility for what has gone wrong in the Guildford and Woolwich case goes further than a handful of Surrey police officers. As a matter of record, it has been obvious for many years to many people in all walks of life that there was something seriously wrong in this case. Given that this was so the question arises as to why so many people in positions of authority, some renowned for the sharpness of their intellect, failed to notice what was apparent to so many others. I, therefore, respectfully put it to you that any conclusion which confines responsibility to a handful of relatively junior police officers or officials will not be credible. Such a conclusion will only strengthen the arguments of the growing body of opinion which believes our legal system is hopelessly corrupted and incapable of reform.
74. Finally, and again with respect, I put it to you that the test of your report will be the extent top which it makes recommendations designed (a) to prevent such a miscarriage happening again; and (b) to resolving existing miscarriages. It is obvious to any reasonable person who has studied the Birmingham pub bombings, Carl Bridgewater and Broadwater Farm convictions that there is something seriously wrong in each case. Unless our legal system proved itself capable of facing up to these, it must expect to be brought increasingly into discredit.