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BOMB FOUR'S 15-YEAR WAIT FOR JUSTICE; Their lives were ruined.

THE Guildford pub bombing in 1974 killed five people and injured 65.

A month later, a bomb exploded in a Woolwich pub, killing two and injuring 27.

For these crimes, three men and a 17-year-old girl were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Later known as the Guildford Four - Gerard Conlon, Carole Richardson, Paul Hill and Paddy Armstrong - they were released after 15 years, when their convictions were overturned as unsound.

Hill and Armstrong were also wrongly convicted of the two Woolwich murders.

On August 14 1987, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd announced an inquiry into the Guildford Four case by Avon and Somerset Police.

Two years later, Hurd referred the case back to the Court of Appeal and at a special sitting the Crown was told that it no longer wished to contest Guildford Four appeal.

The Avon police force found police witnesses at the original trial "seriously misled the court".

The Guildford Four were then released after 15 years in prison. Their convictions were held to be unsafe, eroding faith in the legal system.

The clamour over these miscarriages of justice led directly to the setting up of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice under Sir John May. A report by Sir John, who headed the four-year, pounds 2.15million inquiry, blamed police officers but three were acquitted of making up notes.

But despite his lengthy inquiry into the miscarriage of justice which left the Four in jail on concocted evidence, he refused say they were innocent of the murders - even though the Appeal Court freed them following their claim that confessions were beaten out of them.

Sir John said the report had taken so long because he had to wait for the trial of three police accused of fabricating evidence.

The officers were acquitted in 1993.

The Guildford Four suffered serious psychological effects of 15 years in prison, most of them in category A.

Three years ago, Gerard Conlon and four of the Birmingham Six who were released in 1991, were examined by a psychiatrist.

He found that they were suffering from irreversible, persistent and disabling post- traumatic stress syndrome.

He compared their mental state with that of brain-damaged accident victims or people who had suffered war crimes.

Conlon came out worse. After years of transatlantic campaigning for the Birmingham Six and other victims of injustice, Conlon descended into a cocaine haze of which he has just recently emerged.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 6, 2000
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