Court's ruling based on gun threat by PC

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The Independent Online
THE THREE judges of the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal recalled in their 42- page judgment that the case concerned the murder of Brian Shaw, writes David McKittrick.

In a case separate from the Guildford Four trial, Paul Hill was convicted of this murder in Belfast in 1975.

Reviewing the case facts, the judges said that Mr Hill had been held at Guildford police station in November 1974. Two RUC officers had come from Belfast to interview him, and Mr Hill had signed for them a lengthy confession. This was the only evidence in the Shaw case.

At his original trial Mr Hill made no allegations against the RUC detectives but claimed that before their arrival he had been reduced to a mental wreck by verbal abuse, threats and physical assault from Surrey officers. He claimed an officer had pointed a revolver at him through the flap of his cell door.

The trial judge had stated he did not believe Mr Hill's allegations, saying he was satisfied the confession had not been induced by any oppressive conduct or circumstances.

The appeal court judges said it was unlikely that Mr Hill's confession had been invented and drafted by the RUC, as he had claimed.

They added: 'There were certain points of detail in the statement which, looking at the matter from the viewpoints of probability and common sense, would appear much more likely to have been told to the interviewing officers by a participant in the capture and shooting of Shaw.'

The judges said they were satisfied that Mr Hill had made a number of untruthful allegations which severely undermined his general credibility, but added that these were not decisive against him because a confession obtained by improper means must still be excluded from evidence even if the court considered it to be true.

The judges said they had heard fresh evidence from Witness B, a retired Surrey policeman who had been on duty in Guildford station as a firearms officer. He had told of seeing another firearms officer, Constable Gerald Queen, pointing a revolver into the hatch of a cell and clicking the trigger at least twice.

The judges noted that PC Queen was not called by the Crown to give evidence. The Crown had not seriously challenged Witness B's description of the incident but suggested that it had taken place after Mr Hill had confessed.

The judges concluded that it was very probable that an incident involving PC Queen and his revolver had taken place. Although this had probably happened after Mr Hill had made a confession, there were grounds for fearing that other incidents had taken place.

Pointing a revolver at a prisoner was 'a disgraceful and grossly improper action which clearly constituted inhuman treatment' which was sufficient to make the appeal successful.