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
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before