Letter: The scope of a royal pardon

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Sir: As solicitors for Iris Bentley, may we thank you for your leading article (2 October), which in content and title strikes exactly the right note. Whatever the ostensible 'long-established policy' of successive home secretaries not to grant pardons unless satisfied of 'moral as well as technical innocence', the pardon is but part of the royal prerogative which is unlimited in its scope. If Kenneth Clarke had had the courage of his convictions, there was nothing to have inhibited him from recommending a pardon in terms limited to an official acknowledgement that the death penalty should not have been carried out.

Although we maintain that Derek Bentley was indeed technically as well as morally innocent of the murder of PC Miles, despite Mr Clarke's assertions that 'nothing has emerged from my review of this case which establishes Derek Bentley's innocence' and that 'Bentley was properly sentenced in accordance with the requirement of the law', the Home Secretary did not need to be satisfied of this before recommending the qualified pardon appropriate to the circumstances of this unique case.

The campaign to secure justice for Derek Bentley will continue unabated, reinforced by the Home Secretary's decision, and we reiterate your call for a public review. May we conclude by appealing through your columns for support for the campaign.

Yours faithfully,


London, SE1

2 October