Lawyers angry at release of letter in pub bomb case

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The Independent Online
THE DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions was yesterday at the centre of a potentially embarrassing row over the release of sensitive information relating to the Guildford Four and the pending trial of three Surrey police officers involved in the 1974 pub bombing inquiry.

The information came in a copy of a letter submitted by Barbara Mills, the DPP, and circulated at Sir John May's public inquiry into the wrongful convictions of the Guildford Four and the related case of the Maguire family.

The letter - sent by defence counsel representing one of the Surrey officers to the Old Bailey's court administrator - outlines a potential thrust of the officers' defence and by implication could be seen as prejudicial to the Four.

Its release coincides with claims and concerns from defence lawyers that police are behind recent leaks designed to smear others involved in the Irish miscarriage of justice cases - the Birmingham Six and the Maguire family.

The row over the letter came as Sir John was given an insight into the workings of the DPP's office in the mid-1970s, when these cases were brought to trial.

Roger Maitland, who served 18 years in the old DPP's office, said in a written submission: 'Some of us were callous and inefficient, but we were not pointlessly cruel.'

Mr Maitland, who was also an adviser to the law officers at the time, told the inquiry that had Sir Sam Silkin, then Attorney General, been made aware of all the evidence - available at the time but not disclosed - he would not have authorised the prosecution.

Yesterday's release of the letter relating to the Surrey officer's trial prompted a protest from lawyers representing the Guildford Four and Maguire family. A spokesman for Sir John, subsequently requested that the press refrain from publishing the letter's contents for fear of prejudicing the officer's trial. If the full contents had been appreciated it would not have been circulated, he said.

But Alistair Logan, solicitor for two of the Guildford Four and the Maguire family, said: 'We are horrified to see such a situation occurring. At the very least it calls into question the judgement of the person or persons who took the decision to publish this letter.'

He said his clients had long made known their desire that anyone going to trial as a result of investigations into their case should get a fair hearing because they had not received fair treatment.

The letter was attached to a submission from lawyers representing the DPP, responding to criticism from Sir John last week that the Surrey officers' trial had been dogged by a series of delays over the past two years and is now not due to start until next April.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the DPP's office said the letter had been submitted 'specifically to help answer Sir John's question in relation to the delay in bringing the officers to trial'.

She said it was published with the permission of its author, Edmund Lawson QC, who is representing Detective Constable Vernon Attwell at the forthcoming trial. He and Detective Superintendent Thomas Style and Detective Sergeant John Donaldson are accused of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

Sir John is expected to publish his final report on the Maguire case next month.