Northern Ireland news

Calls for new Guildford Four investigation

Gerry Conlon emerges from the Old Bailey Court in London after the Guildford Four were released in 1989. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Connla Young

LAWYERS for the family of the late Gerry Conlon have called for a new investigation into the police and prosecutors involved in the original Guildford Four case.

The development comes as a new book about Mr Conlon is launched and potential new evidence emerges which suggests prosecutors requested a forensic officer redraft a statement that may have helped him and his co-accused prove their innocence.

KRW Law, for Mr Conlon's sister Ann McKernan and a survivor of the IRA attacks, wrote to Attorney General Jeremy Wright.

After examining archive material, they say there is basis on which he can direct a new investigation into "alleged criminality on the part of the original Surrey Police investigation team and the prosecutors which with whom they worked in securing the wrongful conviction of Mr Conlon and others".

The Guildford Four, which included Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson, were wrongfully convicted of two pub bombings in Guildford in October 1974, which killed four British soldiers and a civilian.

They were released in 1989 after spending 15 years behind bars.

Members of an IRA unit - the ‘Balcombe Street Gang’ - later confirmed they were responsible but were never charged.

Richard O’Rawe, the author In the Name of the Son: The Gerry Conlon Story, examined files linked to an inquiry carried out by Sir John May.

He says that in 1975 a forensic expert made a statement linking the Woolwich pub bomb, which killed two people in November 1974, to other attacks at the time. He says this statement was not disclosed to the defence during the Guildford Four's trial.

Mr O’Rawe said the files also show that before the Balcombe Street Gang’s trial in 1977, prosecutors asked the forensic expert to redraft his statement omitting any reference to Woolwich.

In their letter to the attorney general, solicitors also refer to the alleged request to alter the statement and say: "On the face of it this represents evidence of perverting the course of justice."

Campaigners say the Guildford accused were in police custody at the time of the Woolwich bombing.

Solicitor Kevin Winters said: “Whilst the discovery of any new information even at this very late stage is to be welcomed sadly the development comes too late for Gerry Conlon.

“He presents as yet another victim of a seriously flawed justice system for whom final closure remained so elusive.''

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