Anger as Guildford Four inquiry curtailed: Questions about the role of senior police officers and lawyers in the miscarriage of justice 17 years ago may never be resolved

SIR JOHN MAY came under fierce attack yesterday for his decision not to publicly examine the roles played by senior police officers, lawyers and law officers in the miscarriage of justice which sent the Guildford Four to prison for 15 years.

The Home Office said that Sir John had decided to end all public hearings in the inquiry in order to meet a deadline for preparing his report to the Royal Commission into the justice system. The move is in stark contrast to the public hearings he has already conducted into the related case of the Maguire family which led to the quashing of their convictions for explosives offences last year.

In an indication that the decision to curtail and move the inquiry into private session may prompt a boycott, Alastair Logan, solicitor for the Maguire family, as well as Carole Richardson and Patrick Armstrong, two of the Four, said last night: 'Witnesses will no longer be examined or cross-examined by anyone except by Sir John in secret. The Guildford Four may never know what lay hidden in the police files for 15 years.'

Chris Mullin, the Labour MP who campaigned to overturn the Birmingham Six, Guildford and Maguire convictions, said Sir John's inquiry had 'been knobbled from the moment that it became clear that he was not prepared to participate in a whitewash'.

Lawyers and campaigners are now concerned that crucial questions surrounding the role of key people involved in the prosecution will not be properly answered. Who for example, decided not to disclose that Gerard Conlon, another of the Four, had an alibi for the night of the Guildford bombings? Who in the Director of Public Prosecutions instructed a scientist to alter his evidence? Why, when IRA members of the convicted Balcombe Street gang admitted their part in the Guildford bombings, was the case not reopened?

Those who might have been expected to give evidence to its final phase include Sir Peter Imbert, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and a retired commander, Jim Nevill, both former bomb squad officers who questioned the Balcombe Street men and sent a file to the DPP.

Crown lawyers who included Michael Hill QC, and Paul Purnell QC, DPP officials and Surrey detectives who conducted all the disputed interviews with the Four as well as senior officers who ran the inquiry and supervised interrogations may also have faced cross- examination.

The decision to end full public hearings was announced by the Home Office yesterday following discussions earlier this week between Sir John, Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, and Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney General. They said it would be 'impractical' to hold public hearings while the prosecution of three Surrey police officers was still outstanding.

Sir John is trapped between his obligation to complete the inquiry in time for it to form part of the report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice due next June and his statement at the outset of the inquiry that public hearings into the role of the police and lawyers would not take place until all criminal proceedings had been completed.

The case against three Surrey detectives, charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to interviews with Mr Armstrong, has been delayed by legal arguments and will now not take place before next April. This makes it impossible for any public hearings to be completed between its conclusion and the deadline for the commission, of which Sir John is a member.

Instead of conducting public hearings, the Home Office said yesterday, Sir John will now be writing 'an account' of the Guildford and Woolwich affair based on the 'extensive documentary evidence' he has already obtained. The inquiry may still produce a separate report for publication after the trial and may take evidence in private.

The inquiry was established in October 1989 following the release of the four people jailed for life in 1975 for the Guildford and Woolwich public house bombings and the related Maguire case.

But yesterday in answer to the criticism, Richard Mason, a member of Sir John's inquiry secretariat, said: 'Before people start getting too cynical look at our record.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick