22 April 2006

Yesterday in history: 'Guildford Four' man cleared of IRA murder


21 April 1994

One of the Guildford Four, Paul Hill, has won his appeal against a conviction for an IRA murder in Northern Ireland.

Paul Hill's conviction for pub bombings was quashed in 1989

The Appeal Court in Belfast ruled his conviction for the 1974 murder of former soldier Brian Shaw was unsafe.

Mr Hill confessed to the murder of Mr Shaw to detectives from the Royal Ulster Constabulary while being held at Guildford police station over two pub bombings in which 21 people died.

But the three appeal court judges ruled his confession was obtained improperly.

They said it may have been induced by a Surrey police officer pointing a gun at him.

But they also indicated they believed many of Mr Hill's allegations of ill-treatment were untrue.

Five years ago the behaviour of Surrey police officers also led to Paul Hill and three others being cleared of the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings.

The quashing of the conviction for Brian Shaw's murder means Mr Hill may now receive up to half a million pounds in compensation for the years he spent in jail.

Among those in court with Mr Hill were his wife Courtney, daughter of the late Robert Kennedy and his mother-in-law, Ethel Kennedy.

"I've been in limbo for a long time. I didn't wait for 17 years to be told I was innocent of this, I always knew I was innocent of this," Mr Hill told reporters after the judgement.

Events in Guildford police station had led to a "travesty of justice" for both Mr Shaw and the bombing victims and those wrongfully imprisoned, Mr Hill added.

Brian Shaw's widow, Maureen Hall, who was also in court said her family was disappointed by the verdict.

She said: "We have to live with this decision, but we do not have to agree with it. Brian Shaw was the real innocent victim in this case.''

In Context

In July 1994 a report into the case of the Guildford Four by former judge Sir John May said the miscarriage of justice was due to "individual failings" and not weaknesses in the system.

In July 2000 UK Prime Minister Tony Blair became the first senior politician to apologise to the Guildford Four.

In a letter, sent to Paul Hill's wife, Mr Blair said: "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."

The case of the Guildford Four was one of several high-profile cases of miscarriage of justice in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

On 9 February 2005 Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a public apology to the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven for the miscarriages of justice they had suffered.

He said: "I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and such an injustice.

"They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated."

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