Family of Iris Bentley vow to battle on for brother's pardon

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The Independent Online
Mourners at yesterday's funeral of Iris Bentley were urged to carry on her fight to win a pardon for her brother Derek, hanged in 1953 for the murder of a policeman.

They also heard the Home Office denounced during the funeral service for its "callous indifference" in refusing to bring forward a decision which could clear Bentley's name so that his sister would have known the outcome before her death.

Miss Bentley campaigned for a pardon until her death last week from cancer, aged 65. Speakers at yesterday's service in Collier's Wood, south London, said her fight had changed the face of British justice. Her daughter Maria Dingwall, 34, vowed to continue the battle.A note on the wreath she laid read: "Mum, you can trust me to fight to the bitter end. I will get the pardon. That is my prayer to you."

Bentley denied urging his 16-year-old accomplice, Christopher Craig, to shoot PC Sidney Miles after a botched burglary in Croydon, south London, but he was condemned to death aged 19 after a much-criticised trial. His story was dramatised in the film Let Him Have It - the words he was alleged to have shouted moments before the murder. Craig escaped capital punishment because of his age, and was released in 1963. Miss Bentley was laid to rest alongside her brother in Croydon cemetery. One of the victories in her long battle was to have his remains moved there from a prison burial ground. A floral tribute from her closest family bore the words: "Iris, the fight carries on".

In April, Bentley's case is due to be one of the first to be presented at the Criminal Cases Review Commission for referral to the Court of Appeal.

It is also believed that the Home Office will soon announce a decision on whether to grant a pardon in the light of new evidence.

At yesterday's service, the solicitor Benedict Birnberg disclosed that a plea to the Home Office last October to bring the decision forward in the light of Miss Bentley's illness had been rejected. He said it was typical of the "callous indifference" with which she had been treated by the establishment.

Labour MP Joan Lestor told mourners: "I am here to salute a great campaigner, an outstanding woman, who has made a major contribution to British justice and our society." Frances Crook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "She was a great role model for all of us and her achievements will live on for generations."

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