Media warned on Bridgewater

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The senior judge in the Bridgewater Three case yesterday stressed that none of the convictions had been quashed and none would be unless and until the Court of Appeal was satisfied it was unsafe.

Lord Justice Roch was responding to "inaccurate" reporting in the media of last Friday's hearing, when the men, convicted 17 years ago of murdering newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater, were released on bail. One of the three, James Robinson, and relatives of cousins Vincent and Michael Hickey were in court yesterday.

They heard the judge say that if, at the end of the full appeal hearing next month, the court concluded the convictions were not safe, "then we will quash them and the presumption of innocence in favour of all unconvicted persons is re-established".

The judge said most media coverage last week was accurate, but some was not, so it was necessary to reiterate what the court said, "in the hope that in future all reports and not merely some will have the accuracy that court reporting demands".

He said the court had stated it would hear evidence from scientific experts indicating that a confession by the fourth defendant, Patrick Molloy, who died in prison, had been obtained by a trick. If that evidence was accepted, it would lead to the quashing of his conviction.

The court had then said: "It is in our view right that the public, the appellants and the family of the murdered boy should have the opportunity to learn precisely how this fresh evidence came to light, what its significance is and also to know what further evidence there may be." The court would then go on to consider the effects of all this evidence on the safety of the other convictions.

Describing the court's function, the judge said it was not a court of inquiry or royal commission. It was concerned with what went wrong in the investigation and trial and the effect on the safety of the convictions, not with why things went wrong. It would not inquire into, for instance, which individuals were responsible for non-disclosure of evidence that might have helped the defence, or what other person or persons might have committed the murder.

But the court did have power to refer any evidence of such wrongdoing to the Director of Public Prosecutions.