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Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 169 Contents

Socialist Review, November 1993

Judith Orr


Back in the dock

From Socialist Review, No. 169, November 1993.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Double Jeopardy: The Retrial of the Guildford Four
Ronan Bennett
Penguin £4.99

When the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to defend the appeal of the Guildford Four in October 1989 he was carrying out a damage limitation exercise. Had there been a full hearing of the evidence, not only would the four have been incontrovertibly proved to be innocent, but the conduct of the high ranking police officers involved in the frame up would have become public knowledge.

This book looks at how the case of the three police officers finally charged with ‘perverting the course of justice’ took place against a background of a whispering campaign designed to undermine the appeal decision. The shift in the tone of the media coverage since the four’s release is significant.

Initially papers were rightly outraged at the injustice suffered. For instance, the Daily Express declared that ‘those responsible for robbing them of 14 years should be punished’. Yet, almost imperceptibly at first, suggestions, hints, rumours that there was ground for doubt crept into the coverage – particularly once the police were on trial.

Bennett’s account shows just how unashamedly biased the legal system is when its own representatives are in the dock. The judge had no intention of letting the jury give a guilty verdict. In fact, at the end of the prosecution case he told them that he already ‘had a view’ and that if they did too they could send him a note during lunch and the case would be dismissed!

The book counterposes this to the physical and mental torture meted out to the Guildford Four to extract confessions, and the farce of their trial. However, by the time the police were predictably acquitted the Daily Telegraph felt confident to state of the Guildford Four, ‘This raises the disturbing possibility that the real miscarriage of justice in their case occurred when they walked free’!

Far from the forces of law and order being convicted for their actions we now see their innocent victims recriminalised. In recent weeks the police accused of beating confessions from the Birmingham Six had their trial stopped because publicity meant they could never get a fair trial. No serious attempt was made to convict them.

Double Jeopardy would make a good stocking filler for the sceptical.

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