Innocent and freed after 17 years behind bars
Compiled from various sources
submitted by: Tippa Naphtali – August 2014
Updates on this case are listed at the foot of this item
On 14 March 1991 Six Irishmen that had been imprisoned for nearly 17 years and widely known as Britain’s biggest mass murderers, were freed by the Court of Appeal. In light of substantive and fresh evidence since previous court hearings, Lord Justice Lloyd announced; “your appeals will be allowed and you are free to go”.
A rapturous and emotional reunion followed with their families outside the Old Bailey. There was also applause from hundreds of well-wishers. The men were Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, John Walker, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and Hugh Callaghan. Their first application for appeal against conviction failed in March 1976.
In January 2014 relatives of those killed in the Birmingham pub bombings welcomed a call by Paddy, one of the men wrongly convicted of the massacre, that the IRA and British state finally tell the truth about the atrocity.
Paddy urged the IRA members still alive who were behind the bombings and the government to “come clean” about one of the biggest acts of mass murder in UK criminal history.
The six men were, in Paddy’s words; “tortured and framed” on arrest, beaten, subjected to mock executions, threatened with being thrown from a high building or a car on the motorway, and burnt with cigarettes. Their torturers were the infamous West Midlands Serious Crime Squad.
The first words that he claims were spoken to him by a detective from the West Midlands SCS were, “SOON, you little Irish bastard, you dirty little murdering pig…”
On 22 November 1974 Paddy and four friends had been heading for a boat bound for Belfast when they were picked up by Transport Police at Heysham, in Lancashire during the early hours of the morning. They were taken to the police station nearby at the Morecambe seaside resort. This is where they were greeted by the detective, who was carrying a gun at his hip.
Several hours earlier 21 people had been killed and 182 injured when the Mulberry Bush pub and the Tavern in the Town exploded in a bomb attack by the IRA on Birmingham city centre. But the friends knew nothing of this at the time. They had been playing cards on the train, looking forward to their trip.
Another friend, Hugh Callaghan, was arrested separately a day later.
Cut and visibly bruised when they were taken from the police station to the magistrates’ court, the solicitors who saw them ensured that legal aid forms were signed, but failed to log their injuries.
Within an hour they were in Winson Green prison, where they ran the gauntlet of a lynch mob of prison officers; by the end the teeth of two of the men and the blood of all covered the reception area; the evidence essential to establish in the future that the “confessions” in police custody had been beaten out of them had been obliterated.
Chris Mullin, Ex MP, said; “The release of the Birmingham Six was a watershed for British justice. In the months that followed there was a string of further releases. At the time of writing, twenty-seven other people have either had convictions quashed or charges against them dropped after evidence from West Midlands detectives was discredited.
“I hope Error of Judgement will continue to be read by all those who care about justice. I am glad to learn that it has already found its way onto the reading lists of some students of criminal law, but it ought to be of far wider interest. At one level it is the story of a nightmare that overtook six unfortunate men and their families. At another it is, too, a story of hope, an account of how it is possible, even in the face of great odds, for a just cause to triumph”.
Error of Judgement (Chris Mullin)
Birmingham Six man’s call for truth backed by victim’s family
2 February 2014
Victims must have justice, claims Paddy Hill
17 June 2012
Birmingham Six member dies in hospital
22 May 2006
Birmingham Six: 35 years on from injustice
23 November 2009
Irishmen freed as appeal is allowed after new evidence
15 March 1991