Pub blasts scientist drops libel action

THE former government scientist whose evidence helped to send the Birmingham Six to prison for 16 years, yesterday abandoned his libel action over the 1985 World in Action programme which first raised doubts about the men's convictions.

The hearing had been threatening to become a retrial of the six men wrongly convicted for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings. For Dr Frank Skuse had argued that he stood by his tests, which purported to show explosive traces on the hands of two of the men, even though they had been discredited at the men's appeal.

Further, his counsel, Geoffrey Shaw QC, had told the court that he would be producing new scientific evidence in support.

But when the case re-opened at the High Court in London yesterday after a 10-day break, Mr Shaw said the action against Granada Television, which made the programme, was being 'discontinued with no order as to costs'.

The move is understood to follow attempts last week by scientists representing both sides in the action to reproduce the tests which Dr Skuse says he carried out.

After the brief hearing Dr Skuse, 59, said he had decided to drop the action because of the costs involved. The financial risks outweighed his objective to 'regain the status I had earned as a practising forensic scientist devoted to the provision of evidence for the public good', he said.

His libel action had, for a limited period, been funded by Sir James Goldsmith, the millionaire businessman.

Ian McBride, producer of the 1985 programme, said: 'We stand by our programme. We have not apologised to Dr Skuse or paid any damages or costs.

We regard his withdrawal as a vindication of our programme. It was very unfortunate that this case raised doubts about the innocence of the Birmingham Six.'

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