Lawyers' arguments fail to convince PM

Leading QCs claim precedents exist for clemency plea by Downing Street. Heather Mills reports.

Downing Street remained adamant last night that it would not intervene to try to save Nick Ingram's life, despite claims from leading QCs and lawyers that there were strong legal and human rights reasons for doing so.

John Major is convinced he has no right to speak out about the US administration of justice.

But Geoffrey Robertson, a leading human rights QC, has already said that the legal advice given to Mr Major was "plainly wrong and incompetent" and called for a full investigation. And yesterday others supported his argument.

Further, Margaret Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister, made personal pleas on behalf of the only other two Britons to face the death penalty in recent years. But her pleas for clemency for Kevin Barlow and Derrick Gregory - both convicted of heroin trafficking in Malaysia - failed. Kevin Barlow was hanged in 1986 and Gregory was executed three years later.

The Foreign Office said those cases had been looked at on their individual merits and a decision had been taken that a plea for clemency was appropriate. Barlow, 28, had maintained to the gallows that he did not know an Australian he was travelling with was carrying drugs. Both Mrs Thatcher and the Australian Prime Minister intervened - but to no avail.

In the case of Gregory, there was concern that he had a long history of psychiatric care after suffering a brain injury when he was only four. He was said to have been easily influenced and manipulated by dealers. Gregory, 39, went to the gallows clutching a photograph of his eight-year- old daughter.

But lawyers yesterday said there were very different reasons for intervening on behalf of Ingram. There were two rulings - one by seven Law Lords sitting as the Privy Council and one by the European Court of Human Rights - which dictated that Ingram should be reprieved.

In July 1989, the Strasbourg court stopped the UK from extraditing to Virginia in the US a man wanted for a double murder. It said Jens Soering must not be extradited because he would face a "very long period of time spent on death row". Such circumstances amounted to cruel and inhuman treatment.

That ruling was underlined 18 months ago when the Privy Council saved all inmates in Jamaica who had been on death row for five years or more. In a rare constitutional ruling it said that to hold them for so long in the grim conditions of death row before eventually hanging them also amounted to cruel, inhuman treatment. The Law Lords noted that the death penalty in the UK, before its abolition, had always been carried out promptly after sentence - within weeks or, in the event of an appeal to the House of Lords, months. Delays of years were unheard of.

The Indian Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe - both with experience of the death penalty - have adopted similar law. Judges in Zimbabwe said that to hold people so long before executing them "would shock the conscience of the people".

Seul Lehfreund, a human rights adviser for 70 death row inmates in Jamaica, said that with three continents accepting the principle, he was "amazed that the US has not followed suit". Peter Thornton QC said Mr Major had taken the easy path of non-intervention and by not supporting the judges' rulings he was "taking a step backward in constitutional rights".

A Downing Street spokeswoman would not say whether Mr Major had taken fresh advice in the light of the lawyers' claims, but the Government's position had not changed. Ingram had US citizenship and "cannot simply claim UK nationality when its suits him," she said.

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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 iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players