Guildford Four 'plot' dismissed: An inquiry into one of Britain's worst miscarriages of justice makes many criticisms but rejects the idea of an official cover-up. Terry Kirby reports

THE Guildford Four miscarriage of justice was due to individual failings among police and prosecutors and not inbuilt weaknesses in the system, the May inquiry into the affair has concluded.

Sir John May spent four and a half years deliberating on the case which shattered confidence in the British legal system, but his conclusions were greeted with disappointment. Chris Mullin, the MP who campaigned on behalf of the Four, said they were a 'near perfect replica of the official position' while Alistair Logan, solicitor for two of the Four, said they did not add to knowledge of the affair.

Sir John, 71, a retired appeal court judge, says there were 'individual failings' by police and prosecutors for which 'no rules could provide complete protection'. But he concludes there was no 'specific weakness or inherent fault' in the criminal justice system and rejects alleg ations of deliberate supression of evidence. Yesterday he said: 'I have no doubt that, contrary to the widely held view, there was no conspiracy to convict the Guildford Four or to maintain that conviction.'

Although individuals are named in the 309-page report, it does not specifically point to those said to have 'individual failings'. Sir John says widespread criticism of the criminal justice system over recent miscarrages is 'undesirable'. He also attacks the 'mythology' surrounding the case, which had led to 'significant misrepresentation', and singles out the film In the Name of the Father as 'misleading'.

The report urges that jurors be warned that people in custody can make false confessions and that police are often tempted to force confessions out of those against whom they have intelligence but no other evidence. He repeats the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice that an independent body be established to investigate miscarriages of justice. Sir John was appointed following the Court of Appeal's quashing of the 1975 convictions of Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson for the 1974 Guildford and Woolwich IRA bombings in which seven people died. The convictions were quashed following new evidence suggesting police fabricated the confessions of Mr Armstrong and Mr Hill; three detectives were acquitted of related charges last year. Sir John has already produced interim reports on the related case of the Maguire Seven, cleared by the Court of Appeal in 1991. His final report was delayed in order not to prejudice the trial of the officers.

Mr Logan, solicitor for Ms Richardson and Mr Armstrong, said: 'Four people spent 15 years in jail for an offence they didn't commit and no one really knows after reading that report why that happened.' Mr Mullin, MP for Sunderland South, said: 'It is a report that will satisfy only those responsible for creating this mess in the first place.'

Sir John told a press conference yesterday that there was no evidence of a conspiracy to convict the Four. The report says it is impossible to determine after such a time, whether police used violence or falsified their confessions. Sir John said that given the circumstances of bombings in Guildford, Woolwich and Birmingham, he says he would have been surprised if the police had not adopted a hostile approach. There is no inconsistency, the report says, between the quashing of the Four's convictions by the Court of Appeal in October 1989 and the acquittal last year of three former Surrey police officers on charges relating to falsifying statements by Patrick Armstrong.

'A jury's verdict of not guilty is not a positive declaration of factual innocence. Similarly, a judgment of the Court of Appeal quashing a conviction does not constitute a finding that the appellant did not commit the offence,' the report declares. The alleged fabrication by the Surrey police officers of the confessions led to the quashing of the convictions by the Court of Appeal.

Surrey police are also criticised for twice arresting a man who came forward to support the alibi of Ms Richardson. Sir John says police tried to destroy the alibi, rather than investigate its truth.

The report largely exonerates the Metropolitan police of accusations that they failed to investigate claims by two of the IRA gang arrested after the 1977 Balcombe Street siege that they were involved in the Woolwich bombings. With hindsight, Sir John says, it would have been better if the police had pursued the matter, but criticism cannot be reasonably levelled at them because they regarded the confessions as not inconsistent with the presence at Woolwich of Mr Hill.

Criticism by many lawyers of the Court of Appeal in 1977 for failing to give proper weight to the Balcombe Street confessions was 'ill- founded', Sir John says. But he acknowledges that the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, of which he was a member, recommended last year that the court change its procedures on admitting new evidence. He criticises the Court of Appeal for relying on Ms Richardson's confession and refusing to consider new alibi evidence in 1977.

The report strongly criticises the decision by the prosecution at the Guildford trial not to disclose to the defence a statement supporting Mr Conlon's alibi.

Sir John also criticises the failure by Crown lawyers and officials in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to disclose forensic evidence linking the Woolwich bombing with other bombings that occurred after the arrest of the Four.

Leading article, page 17

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice