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News Roundup Week Ending 28 June

Charlotte Rowles

By Charlotte Rowles on 26/06/14

News Roundup Week Ending 28 June

21 June 2014

The Belfast Telegraph reports on the death of a victim and tireless campaigner for justice. 

Gerry Conlon, wrongly convicted of Guildford pub bombings, dies in Belfast aged 60.

Mr Conlan, who was 60 and had been ill for some time, died this morning at his home off the Falls Road in west Belfast.

The Guildford Four — Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Carole Richardson and Paddy Armstrong — were jailed for life in 1975 for an IRA bombing campaign which killed five people and injured 65.Mr Conlon's father, Giuseppe, was jailed later that year. He died in prison five years later.Giuseppe was jailed as part of a discredited investigation into a supposed bomb making family - the Maguire Seven.

Giuseppe had one lung, and emphysema and had just undergone chemotherapy. His mother Sarah, a tireless campaigner for their freedom, died in 2008, aged 82.

Gerry Conlon, a member of the Guildford Four, has died at the age of 60
The Guildford Four were freed in 1989. In 2005, sixteen years after their release, Tony Blair delivered a public apology to the Conlon and Maguire families, saying they deserved to be completely and publicly exonerated.

In a statement Mr Conlon's family said: "This morning we lost our Gerry. He brought life, love, intelligence, wit and strength to our family through its darkest hours.

"He helped us to survive what we were not meant to survive."We recognise that what he achieved by fighting for justice for us had a far, far greater importance - it forced the world's closed eyes to be opened to injustice... we believe it changed the course of history.

"We thank him for his life and we thank all his many friends for their love."

Alex Attwood, SDLP MLA for West Belfast said:"On my own behalf and that of the SDLP, I extend deep sympathy to Gerry's partner and his family. May he rest in peace with his late parents.

"He was a big character. Gerry made a big and lasting impression on all those he met. He had a great resilience, an incredible warmth and a huge heart. "He also had a deep commitment to justice and democracy. He stood with all those who had been denied their rights and suffered wrong. "The miscarriage of justice perpetrated against him, his dad and his friends was shocking. The campaign of Gerry and others concentrated a spotlight on the wrongs of the State like never before. His eventual release was very significant in itself, was also a catalyst for campaigns against other miscarriages of justice.

"Gerry will be missed as a person and missed for the vigor and support he brought to other campaigns for justice. His death at 60 years of age is far too young for someone who had suffered far too much, who had then given so much and had so much more to give”.

Mr Conlon's case was highlighted in the 1993 Oscar-nominated film In The Name Of The Father, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams expressed his shock and deep sadness at the news.

"Gerry and his father Giuseppe were two of the most infamous examples of miscarriages of justice by the British political and judicial system," Mr Adams said. "Their story was told graphically in the film In The Name Of The Father. To his family and friends I want to extend my sincere condolences."

Personal battles

In 2009 Mr Conlon wrote about the personal and emotional battles he suffered as a result of his incarceration and fight for freedom. He suffered two breakdowns, attempted suicide and became addicted to drugs and alcohol following his release.

Mr Conlon also only began enduring nightmares after securing freedom.

"The ordeal has never left me," he said.

Miscarriage of justice

The jailing of Conlon and the other members of the Guildford Four - Paddy Armstrong, Paul Hill and Carole Richardson - is considered the biggest miscarriage of justice in British legal history.

They were jailed for life in 1975 for the devastating attack on the Horse and Groom pub in the Surrey town which killed four soldiers and a civilian.
But they were freed in October 1989 after the Court of Appeal quashed their sentences amid doubts raised about the police evidence against them.

An investigation by Avon and Somerset Police found serious flaws in the way Surrey Police handled the case.


As he emerged free from the Court of Appeal Gerry Conlon declared: "I have been in prison for something I did not do. I am totally innocent."

Paddy Hill – one of the Birmingham Six – was wrongly jailed for 17 years for similar crimes.
Both men had accused the Government of "washing their hands" of innocent Irish men and women who, according to Mr Conlon and Mr Hill, have either been framed or are currently rotting in jail.

Speaking at the University of Limerick earlier this year, Mr Hill said: "If what happened to us meant that no other innocent people were going to go to jail, in some way we could accept it – but unfortunately, it's not that way.

"More and more innocent people are going to prison. I don't know how many are presently (before) the Criminal Cases Review Commission in England and Scotland (but) it's just a ridiculous situation," Mr Hill added.
Mr Conlon said  at time that he believed powerful organisations like MI5 are involved in a "dirty tricks" campaign against certain people.
Advocating on behalf of people who claim to be victims of miscarriages of justice, Mr Conlon and Mr Hill said lessons needed to be learned from how they were treated by the British judicial system.

"We need accountability, we need transparency and we need accessibility to the judiciary and they need – when things go wrong – to be told the truth."

Although the scandals of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six cases have been known for more than 30 years, they have been denied full access to the entire case files.

"We are the only two cases in British criminal history where the Official Secrets Act has been applied. It was recommended that our cases be held under the Official Secrets Act for 75 years. That's longer than the secrets from the Second World War."

Mr Conlon had said that he was no longer bitter but admitted he was still angry at what had happened to him and Paddy Hill.

23rd June 2014 
Jasmin McDermott  reports on developments in fingerprinting for the  Police Oracle.

Fingerprint assumptions 'could lead to miscarriages of justice.

Research debunks established assumptions that seemingly fresh fingerprints could be recent additions to a scene and reveals surprising longevity results.

Historical assumptions over fingerprint longevity could lead to miscarriages of justice as new research reveals marks can last for more than two years on certain surfaces.

Experiments by fingerprint scientist Simon Bunter challenge widely accepted assumptions that a mark recovered at a crime scene was more likely to have been placed recently by conducting experiments with different surfaces and "common" substances. 

The results, which vary significantly, reveal that fingerprints placed into oils from sausage and chips and linseed oil are clearly visible, even before the applying aluminium powder, up to two-and-a-half years after they were deposited onto a piece of glass. These marks had also endured various environmental conditions during both summer and winter months.

In an interview with PoliceOracle.com Mr Bunter, who started his career as a fingerprint trainee at North Yorkshire Police, said that crime scene investigators and fingerprint officers should base their judgement on experience and research, rather than assumption.

He said: "It is widely assumed that fingerprints do not persist for a long time and it has been engrained into training.

"The experiments show that fingerprints can actually persist for quite a while. It was quite surprising that even after two-and-a-half years that a mark was visible on glass and had persisted in UK weather."

Assumptions regarding fingerprint longevity suggest the good quality and clarity of the mark is an indicator that is has suffered little deterioration or damage and therefore existed for only a short period of time. Another reasoning is that if a powdering technique lifts a clear mark, the mark must be "fresh" because it has not "washed away" by rain or subject to other weather conditions.

Mr Bunter's main experiment on toughened glass, which took place over the course of two-and-a-half years, placed hands into seven different substances, including sausage and chips, sweet chilli dipping sauce, linseed oil putty, honey and fly spray before a latent mark was applied. The hands were washed with soap and water to try control which substances were present on the hand.
The glass surface was then inspected after a period of three months, one year and two-and-a-half years. Aluminium powder was then applied to develop marks. Weather conditions during the experiment included snowfall, severe frost, wind, rain and sunshine.

Results showed that several of the marks were of very good quality and were identifiable and that the powder adhered to them quickly and easily.

In addition, Mr Bunter, of Keith Borer Consultants, has encountered real-life cases where fingerprint assumptions have been successfully challenged.

In one case, a man was charged with the burglary of his former rugby club clubhouse. Several of his fingerprints were recovered from an internal door but he insisted he had not visited the building for four years. It was also disclosed that the door had been re-painted 18 months prior to the burglary and washed several times.

However, examinations by Mr Bunter revealed that the marks were formed in a layer of yellow paint applied years before the door was re-painted but continued to be visible through the recent layer of paint. Court proceedings were subsequently scrapped following this discovery. Mr Bunter said that to assume a mark is fresh without the backing of scientific reasoning could provide a false evaluation of the evidence which might mislead a court.

He added: "The aging of fingerprints is not simple and is not based on a formula.

"I would like to see more studies around this particular area and for people to be more proactive in looking at the matrix and dynamics of the environment. "Never assume anything because it can lead to miscarriages of justice.

"I hope that people take notice of this and that the research raises awareness of the issues because not all fingerprints are easily removed.

20 June 2014
The Guardian’s legal affairs correspondent, Owen Boycott writes about the controversial fraud trial affected by legal aid cuts.

Fraud trial restarts after being halted by barristers' protests at legal aid cuts
A new deal on court fees is imminent after Ministry of Justice ordered cuts of £220m to annual legal aid bill

Barristers have returned to work on a complex fraud trial that was temporarily halted by protests over 30% cuts to legal aid.
Negotiations between the Ministry of Justice and the Criminal Bar Association over a new deal on court fees are understood to be in their final stages. An announcement of the precise terms of the settlement is expected next week.

Earlier this year Judge Anthony Leonard QC at Southwark crown court ruled that a land bank fraud trial, R v Crawley and others, should be halted because barristers were boycotting what are known as very high cost cases cases. The defendants would consequently be unrepresented, he said, and could not receive a fair trial.

Alexander Cameron QC, the prime minister's brother, an expert in fraud trials, appeared for the defendants on a pro bono basis, arguing that the case could not proceed. The court of appeal later overturned the judge's decision.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Justice and bar association have been holding private talks. The ministry maintains that it must save £220m from the annual legal aid bill. The CBA opposes the deep cuts to legal aid.

The fraud case, which is being prosecuted by the Financial Conduct Authority, has been split into two trials the first of which is due to start in January.

A hearing at Southwark Crown Court on Friday afternoon was attended by barristers. "We are delighted to say that there is representation, Sean Larkin, QC for the authority, told the court. "As we understand it there have been very detailed negotiations between the Bar and MoJ."