Birmingham Six Released
There were discomforting parallels that could be drawn between the Guildford and Birmingham bombings. Both shared a ruthlessness, designed to strike at a time when the human cost would be high. In both instances, the bombers were never brought to justice; while innocent people were victims to massive miscarriages of justice.
The Guildford Four Ė Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Patrick Armstrong, and Carole Richardson Ė were all innocent, yet spent fifteen years in jail for the Guildford bombings before being released in 1989 . The Birmingham Bombings devastated two busy pubs, the Mulberry Bush and The Tavern In The Town, and caused 21 fatalities, leaving 182 injured. It was the biggest bombing of its kind to have hit England. A new pressure was on the police to secure convictions, and, as with The Guildford Four, six people would go to jail for the most heinous of crimes; of which they were wholly innocent.
The case brought against the Birmingham Six was centred around disputed forensic evidence, and backed by circumstantial evidence. Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power, and John Walker were all from Northern Ireland Ė though they had lived in Birmingham since the 1960s. When they were stopped and searched on their way back to Belfast , they were on their way to the IRA funeral of James McDade. This association heavily skewed the case and they all received life sentences.
They maintained their innocence, accusing the Birmingham police of brutality. Just as Guildford, where torture was used to secure a confession, the Birmingham Six found themselves against a police force just desperate to put names to crimes. In June 1975, they pressed charges of assault against fourteen prison officers form HM Prison Birmingham; and two years later, pressed charges against West Midlands police. Both cases were unsuccessful, rejected by Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning. A year after their conviction they appealed, Lord Chief Justice Widgery (who chaired the first tribunal on Bloody Sunday) dismissed it.
It wasnít until 1985 that their fight for freedom began to gather pace. Prominent journalist at the time, Chris Mullin brought more attention to the menís case. Detailing the menís defence, and, most sensationally, claiming to have spoken to the real Birmingham Bombers, Mullinís evidence helped secure another appeal in 1988. This time, after the longest criminal appeal hearing in British legal history, it was Lord Chief Justice Lane that upheld their convictions. But though the Birmingham Six could do little to persuade the British legal system of their innocence, the media and pressure groups kept their cause alive.
It would take a third appeal in 1991 to clear their name. The Birmingham Six were convicted much in the same manner as the Guildford Four; confessions were submitted by the prosecution that had been given under extreme duress, evidence was unsound. With the Birmingham Six, it seemed illogical that the forensic evidence would have been considered so arbitrarily, conflicting conclusions made it unsafe at best. On the 14th February 1991, after just over sixteen years in prison, the Birmingham six were freed, eleven days later their convictions overturned .
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