Old Bailey set to try first war crimes: Prosecution service referral moves closer

BRITAIN'S first war-crimes trials are expected to be heard at the Old Bailey this year, according to sources close to the investigation.

It is understood that two or three cases concerning men originally from Eastern Europe are close to being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service on the basis that the police believe they have a reasonable chance of a conviction. The Director of Public Prosecutions will then consult the Attorney General and decide whether it is in the public interest to proceed in view of the age and infirmity of the suspects, who are all over 70.

More than pounds 5m has been set aside for legal aid for their defence.

Britain realised that it might be harbouring war criminals only in 1986, when a list of 17 suspects was handed to Douglas Hurd, the then Home Secretary, by the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles. Since then the list has grown to more than 100, of whom 30 are understood still to be under active investigation by Scotland Yard.

The suspects are all men who fled to Britain after the war with the refugees from countries that had been occupied by the Germans. They subsequently took British citizenship, and for almost 50 years their war records went unquestioned.

In 1991, Parliament passed the War Crimes Act to make it possible to prosecute such people in British courts. They were not previously liable for prosecution in Britain because the alleged crimes took place on foreign soil, when they were not British citizens. The Government felt at the time that it would not

be appropriate to deport them to face trial behind what was then the Iron Curtain, to countries which still imposed the death penalty. The War Crimes Act set up separate investigating units in England and Wales and in Scotland, which have different legal codes. Before the units began their task, the most likely first case to come before a court had been Anton Gecas, 77, a former Lithuanian who became a mining engineer in Scotland.

Mr Gecas had been a lieutenant in a Lithuanian police battalion used by the Germans to wipe out Jews in several countries. He sued Scottish Television in 1992 for a programme detailing alleged war crimes, but lost his action, with the judge saying he was 'clearly satisfied' that Mr Gecas was a mass murderer.

But despite spending pounds 766,000 investigating and interviewing potential witnesses in more than 10 countries, the Scottish unit had to concede earlier this year that it could not gather a case which would hold water in court. The burden of proof in a criminal action is 'beyond reasonable doubt', while a libel case is decided on 'the balance of probabilities'.

The Scotland Yard unit has already spent more than pounds 3m investigating suspects. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, secured funding for one more year, to April 1995, but with the proviso that it must deliver results in court by then.

The police report into allegations that British soldiers committed war crimes during the 1982 Falklands conflict was handed yesterday to the Crown Prosecution Service, which will consider whether to bring criminal charges.

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes