Letter: Derek Bentley's guilt remains

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The Independent Online
Sir: There will no doubt be many voices raised against the Home Secretary's decision not to pardon Derek Bentley posthumously ('Bentley's sister to fight on after Clarke denies pardon', 2 October). But we should not confuse the offence, of murder (which is still against the law), with the sentence of death, which thankfully has been abolished for that crime.

Here was a man who was himself armed with a flick knife and knuckle-dusters, committing a burglary in the company of another who habitually went armed with a gun. At the time, on the facts before it, the jury convicted him. The only new evidence is that one of the policemen cannot remember hearing the words 'Let him have it, Craig', which were central to the case. This was no innocent man; the case is not parallel to the Birmingham Six or other genuine miscarriages of justice.

The Home Secretary has said that while there can be no pardon for Bentley, had he been Home Secretary at the time the sentence would have been commuted. This is as far as he should go. Derek Bentley's guilt remains. For if he were to be pardoned, why not William Joyce ('Lord Haw-Haw'), Edith Thompson and many others who were evidently guilty but in today's liberal climate would not have been hanged?

Yours faithfully,

LAURENCE MANN

Twickenham, Middlesex

2 October

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