Friday, February 11, 2005

It Could Be You

The Mail's response to Tony Blair's apology to the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven was wholly predictable. But its front page lead yesterday - 'What About The Victims?' - was as stupid as it was nasty. The only people who can apologise to the victims of IRA bombings are the bombers. Blair was apologising to those wrongly convicted on behalf of the British State.

But this in itself raises a different problem because Blair is not the Head of State. It would make more sense for the Queen to issue these kinds of apology and full exoneration. After all, they were prosecuted in her name, in her courts, and stitched up by her constabulary and left to rot in her prisons.
The other problem with Blair doing it is that it has led to speculation that it was related to the Irish peace process and that in turn might reinforce some people's false belief that the victims of this injustice were connected to the Republican movement.
That is precisely the impression that the Mail and other papers have sought to convey along with the idea that their convictions were quashed on a legal technicality. Neither of these things are true and they weren't true of the Birmingham Six either. Detailed books on all these cases are available. They don't make pleasant reading. In fact they're the most horrific books I've ever read in my life. But everyone should read them to understand how a criminal justice system can go so disastrously wrong and how innocent families could find themselves living through a nightmare beyond most people's imaginings.

Dr Michael Naughton, a law lecturer at Bristol University, made these important points:

" By singling out an individual case from 30 years ago the impression is that wrongful convictions are rare and exceptional. This runs counter to the fact that since 1986, for example, when the Police and Criminal Evidence Act came into force, and we were told that there would not be any more miscarriages of justice, there have been over 85,000 successful appeals against criminal conviction in England and Wales, or around 25 successful appeals a day - indicating that 'justice in error' is a routine feature of the criminal justice process.
We agree that the apology to the Guildford 4 and Maguire 7 will help those individuals to move forward with their lives and give them a certain finality about their miscarriages of justice.
The problem is, though, that it only exacerbates the harm to other victims. I have already had Paddy Hill from the Birmingham 6 and Mike O' Brien from the Cardiff Newsagent 3 on the phone and their question is: where are our apologies? They want to know if the Government believe them to be guilty!"


At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Johnny Foreigner said...

Talking of miscarriages of justice,did you hear the latest on Nicolas Van Hoogstraaten...this inveterate crook gets away with murder and then calls the judge "An idiot and a pig"in contempt of court...he must have friends in high places to get away with all this.
If it happened to you or I the key would have been not only be thrown away but the locks changed to boot.
The law in this country works very well for some,while others in the establishment manipulate it on a daily basis.
The funny thing is that the ordinary man in the street still has the illusion that the legal system is a credit to the country, until, that is they get first hand experience of it and look around for help and that help is sadly lacking but can be obtained,of course,at a price.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Yes, we're insufferably smug about most of our institutions.
The less contact people have had with the police and legal system, the higher their opinion of them.

At 5:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After changing the locks, would they then throw away the keys to the new locks?


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