Militant, November 1989

Victims of Capitalist Justice

The Guildford 4

The life sentences served on Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson - the Guildford 4 - were eventually quashed on October 19th. They were wrongly convicted in 1975 for causing explosions in Guildford and Woolwich the previous year, which left seven people dead. They have repeatedly professed their innocence but spent 15 years languishing in prison. The government now admit to a miscarriage of justice.

Three of the four made 'confessions' which were beaten out of them by the police. The police threatened to have Gerry Conlon's mother and sister shot in Belfast. With Paul Hill they threatened to implicate his pregnant girlfriend in the charge.

The fourth, Carole Richardson, was pumped full of barbiturates before her interrogation. The Guildford 4 were beaten, terrified and isolated from the outside world. They believed that a statement admitting their guilt would never stand up in court. They had faith in the old saying, "If you are innocent you have nothing to fear". They were sadly mistaken.

Now that the Guildford 4 have been released, the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, has established an enquiry into how this miscarriage of justice could have happened. Five Surrey police officers have been suspended from duty and are subject to an investigation into their handling of the Guildford case.

But it would be wrong to believe that the Guildford 4 were imprisoned simply because of the actions of five 'bad apples'. There will be an attempt to make them the scapegoats. One of the policemen involved in the interrogations was Peter Imbert. Now he is Sir Peter, head of the Metropolitan Police - Britain's most senior policeman. Vital defense evidence was suppressed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, The prosecuting council, Michael Havers, later became Attorney General and Lord Chancellor under Thatcher.


The judge involved in the case, Sir John Donaldson, later became Master of the Rolls. Those responsible for imprisoning four people for 15 years rose to the very top of the Establishment in Britain.

Once the Four were released many Tories were quick to comment that the decision to quash the convictions was a victory for British justice. The Tory Daily Express for example, ran an editorial on 18th October 1989 under the headline " A Triumph for the Rule of Law". The article stated: "The British government has shown that it will not flinch from doing what is right no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassing the result".

Yet the very same paper had only six days previously acted as the judge and jury in another case. Five Irish building workers were arrested by police at a Cheltenham hotel. They were later released without charge. However the Daily Express, the day after the arrests, ran a front-page headline which screamed "Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested". On page two an article was titled 'Five Held as Thatcher bomb plot foiled'.

Danny McNamee: another victim

The 25-year sentence imposed on Gilbert 'Danny' McNamee in October 1987, at the Old Bailey in London, is another miscarriage of justice. He was convicted of 'conspiracy to cause explosions in the UK or elsewhere'.

The sole evidence against him was his fingerprints - two on tapes on bomb components in Oxfordshire and Northnats, England, and a third on a battery attached to a bomb in London.

There is however, a simple explanation for these prints. For four years McNamee repaired and made parts for electrical goods at Kimble Engineering in Dundalk in the South of Ireland.

Thousands of his prints would have been on tape and electrical equipment. This is not proof of being a bomb maker.

Maguire 7 were framed

Implicated in the 'confessions' of the Guildford 4 were the Maguire Seven - Anne Maguire; her husband Patrick (the aunt and uncle of Gerry Conlon); her sons Patrick (then 14) and Vincent (16); Sean Smyth (Anne's brother); Patrick O'Neill, a family friend and Guiseppe Conlon, Gerry Conlon's father.

Guiseppe Conlon had gone to London from Belfast to see his son and make sure he was legally represented. He visited the house of his sister-in-law, Anne Maguire, on 3rd November 1974. That evening it was raided by the police and the seven were arrested.

One police officer said to Guiseppe Conlon. "You want to know about your son? Well he's going to get 30 years." He continued, We'll see to it that you die in jail."

Anne and Paddy Maguire were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. Guiseppe Conlon, Sean Smyth and Patrick O'Neill received 12 years each. Vincent got five years and Patrick junior for four years youth custody.

On 23rd January 1980 Guiseppe Conlon died in prison. The rest served out their sentences. Anne Maguire was the last to leave prison on 22nd February 1985. The labour movement must demand they now be pardoned and fully compensated.

This series of articles on Northern Ireland from our archives
are available here.

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