Letter: Innocent Irish in British jails

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Sir: So, four years after the government forensic research establishment was found by the Court of Appeal, when it quashed the wrongful imprisonment of Judy Ward, to "have plainly succumbed to the dangers of partisanship", innocent men convicted with tainted evidence may still languish in British prisons, required to wait on the outcome of yet another inquiry which Michael Howard, in his reluctant Commons statement, made clear would end up on his desk and for his consideration ("Semtex error could free 12 IRA men", 15 May).

What real purpose does the Criminal Cases Review Authority, set up out of the Birmingham Six Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, have then? Is it just another poodle to the Home Secretary.

All such convictions, including similar convictions in Northern Ireland, should be quashed on the grounds that it is now impossible to exclude the possibility of contamination, given the abysmal standards of the UK's government forensic science services.

It is now time, at this crucial stage in the Irish peace process when Sinn Fein is being expected even by the US to convince the IRA that the British government is trustworthy to some degree, that the Irish government finally asserts its rights under the Anglo-Irish Agreement to be consulted about the independence of any review of the forensic science service, especially in Northern Ireland, so as to be able to reassure the Irish nationalist community about its fairness.

Otherwise, perhaps this matter of the innocent Irish prisoners languishing in British prisons should be the first item on the agenda of all-party talks on 10 June, as opposed to "decommissioning" and calls for the forensic testing of decommissioned weapons.

Joe Murphy

Birmingham

The writer was formerly secretary of the Campaign for the Birmingham Six (England).

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