One Year Ago — Bad Science & Bad Scientists : IRA suspect Issues Apology for the Birmingham Pub Bombings

“Exactly the same forensic scientists who produced the wrongful conviction of Guiseppe Conlon, the Maguire family and of Danny McNamee, and had been stood down for the role they played. Yet here they were. Without them, there wouldn’t have been a prosecution, far less a conviction in Lockerbie. (…) What shocked me most was that I thought that all that had been gone through on Guildford and Birmingham, the one thing that had been achieved was that nobody would be convicted again on bad science. But yet in the Lockerbie case, it isn’t just the same bad science, it is the same bad scientists.”

Gareth Peirce — Solicitor for the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six

In the Name of the Father is a 1993 Irish-British-American biographical courtroom drama film co-written and directed by Jim Sheridan. It is based on the true life story of the Guildford Four, four people falsely convicted of the 1974 IRA’s Guildford pub bombings, which killed four off-duty British soldiers and a civilian. Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson), a campaigning lawyer who has been investigating the case on behalf of Giuseppe, has a breakthrough when she tries to access Giuseppe’s file and is able to look instead at Gerry’s. She finds vital police documents in the file that are marked “Not to be shown to the Defence”. During the course of their appeal, the production of these documents leads to a triumphant scene in court when Peirce produces the evidence that the police have been lying throughout about the existence of a witness who had provided Conlon with an alibi during their initial investigation. This leads to the overturning of the verdict and immediate release of the Guildford Four.

A self-confessed IRA bomb maker who has said he was part of the group responsible for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings has issued an apology. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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Twenty-one people were killed on 21 November 1974 when bombs exploded in two city centre pubs. Six innocent men were wrongfully convicted.

Unfortunately, this miscarriage of justice is not an isolated case. And the reasons behind these infamous miscarriages of justice are often the same: bad forensic science and bad forensic scientists.

Several official inquiries into the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of Judith Ward, The Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, The Maguire Family, Danny MacNamee, the Gibraltar shootings of three IRA members and the cases of John Berry and Hassan Assali, heavily criticised the Royal Armament Research Development Establishment [RARDE] and their top scientist Dr Thomas Hayes.

Allen Feraday was singled out for basic errors and for being rigid and dogmatic in his evidence.

Dr Hayes and Feraday were employed at the Royal Armament Research Development Establishment (RARDE). In 1995, RARDE was subsumed into the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). In 2001, part of DERA became the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

Feraday’s involvement in the Lockerbie case, together with that of Thomas Hayes, is crucial.

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While Hayes is credited by many as the expert who found the all-important PT35B fragment, it was Feraday who claimed that the fragment was “similar in all respects” to a MST-13 timer which proved the link to Libya and Megrahi. In fact it was, as we now know, nothing of the sort.

In the years since the trial and first appeal they had managed to obtain a huge set of documents from police and Scottish Crown archives. Among the documents was the forensic notebook of scientific witness Allen Feraday.

Feraday had compared PT35(b) with control samples from MST13 timer circuit boards similar to those supplied to Libya in 1985 by MEBO.

He told the trial judges: “the fragment materials and tracking pattern are similar in all respects” to that of the MST13 timer.

But nine years prior to the trial, on 1st August 1991, when examining both the fragment and a MEBO MST13 timer circuit board, he had made two hand-written entries in his notebook which contradicted this.

The first recorded that tracks on fragment PT35(b) were protected by a layer of “Pure tin”.

The second said that tracks on the circuit of a control sample MST13 board were covered by an alloy of “70% tin and 30% lead”.

Feraday and the police were fully aware of the difference.

At the young age of 43, Hayes resigned just a few months after the discovery of the ‘Lockerbie’ timer fragment.

Based on the forensic Dr Hayes had supplied, an entire family [The Maguire seven] was sent to jail in 1976. They were acquitted in appeal in 1992. Sir john May was appointed to review Dr Hayes forensic evidence.

“The whole scientific basis on which the prosecution in [the trial of the alleged IRA Maguire Seven] was founded was in truth so vitiated that on this basis alone, the Court of Appeal should be invited to set aside the conviction,” said Sir john May.

Dr Alan Feraday’s reputation is hardly better. In three separated cases, where men were convicted on the basis of his forensic evidence, the initial ruling was overturned in appeal.

One of the senior judges presiding over the Berry appeal said in 1993 (some 7 years before the Lockerbie trial) that Feraday should not in future be allowed to present himself as an expert in electronics.

According to Dr Michael Scott (forensic scientist) — who was interviewed in the documentary “The Maltese Double Cross – Lockerbie” — Feraday has no formal qualifications as a scientist.

Feraday either perjured himself or was grossly negligent. It was upon his statement — and the very dubious identification evidence by Gauci — that the case against Baset al-Megrahi would turn.

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Gareth Peirce On Megrahi & Lockerbie

Peirce says that the construction and maintenance of the discredited case against Megrahi has required active participation from those at all levels of the criminal justice system, with both tacit and overt support from the top of the political hierarchy.

“In the most notorious cases, everyone played their part, absolutely everybody,” she says.

“A big part of the blame lies within those who form the criminal justice system. It looks as if in the prosecution of the Lockerbie case, the defendants met the same fate, even to the extent of the same personnel featuring, in the person of the forensic scientists.”

The principal forensic analyst, Thomas Hayes, employed by the Crown to testify against Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was the same discredited analyst who was proven to have fabricated his evidence in the manufactured case against the Guildford Four.

He and Alan Feraday testified that the key forensic evidence, a fragment of circuit board, survived the explosion of Pan Am 103 and left traces of clothing connected to a shop in Malta. The owners of that shop provided the identification of Megrahi to the court, and were later found to have been paid in millions of dollars for their testimony. This testimony has been widely discredited …

“That was the most shocking revelation to me,” Peirce says.

ITV documentary: The Birmingham Six: Their Own Story

On 21 November, 1974, the Mulberry Bush pub at the foot of the city’s Rotunda tower and the nearby Tavern in the Town, were both destroyed within minutes of each other.

Six men imprisoned for the attacks had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal, after 16 years in jail, in March 1991.

The Birmingham Six – Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker – were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975.

Human-rights lawyer Gareth Peirce who helped free the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four is now leading the fight for justice for the family of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Here she is interviewed: I.R.A. suspects the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six spent years in jail before you secured their release. Do their cases offer lessons for today? “I think these cases were an object lesson in how not to do things. It was a very belated dawning that unless an entire national community and the reasons for the conflict were understood, and a political solution devised, there could never be an end to the armed struggle. Now that message has been ignored — there is a completely baffling and frightening failure to understand what motivates political Islam.”

So you see parallels with the current situation? “Speaking to one of the Guildford Four recently, his reaction is: “Those poor guys, those Muslims — that’s exactly what happened to us. Has nobody learned?””

The Guildford Four’s story was the subject of a film, In the Name of the Father.

In August 1975 they were sentenced to life in prison on the basis of the false confessions. The men were denied the right to appeal and forced to wait until 1987 when their case was referred to the Court of Appeal, after new evidence emerged, before being rejected.

Public protests kept the case in the spotlight until August 1990 when forensic investigations showed their confessions had been tampered with.

 

REFERENCES

Birmingham pub bombings: IRA suspect Hayes issues apology — BBC

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IRA suspect issues apology for the Birmingham pub bombings — “Bad Science and Bad Scientists”

One Year Ago — Bad Science & Bad Scientists : IRA suspect Issues Apology for the Birmingham Pub Bombings

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One Response to One Year Ago — Bad Science & Bad Scientists : IRA suspect Issues Apology for the Birmingham Pub Bombings

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