Saturday 21 June 2014

Gerry Conlon, Ann Maguire, Dr Thomas Hayes and Lockerbie

It is today reported that Gerard Conlon has died.

In 1974 the alleged IRA bomber Paul Hill, three of his colleagues (Gerard Conlon, Patrick Armstrong, Carole Richardson), plus all seven of the family of Ann Maguire were found guilty of the bombing, or association with the bombing, of an army barracks in Guildford. All served fifteen years imprisonment for their crimes.Gerard Conlon's father Guiseppe died in prison.

The public hue and cry for revenge appeared satisfied. Fortunately for the eleven convicted men and women, several public campaigns conducted before and during the trial to bring back hanging proved unsuccessful .

What Britain had experienced was yet another phase of legal history where public prejudice, legal stupidity or laziness, and sleight of hand by the police and their forensic services merged to a "group think" of public hysteria based on uninformed prejudice.

After serving fifteen years in prison, some in solitary confinement, the remaining ten were released on appeal. At the opening of the appeal, the prosecution lawyers were deeply embarrassed to have to admit that their prosecution case at the trial had been totally without foundation. 

Sadly for all eleven convicted, all was too late; their families had been destroyed and lives ruined by a corrupt and inadequate system of justice.

In today's BBC report concerning Gerard Conlon, which can be read here, the BBC says blandly "They were convicted and jailed for handling explosives, based on scientific evidence which was later entirely discredited".  

Few people today are aware that that "scientific" evidence was in part provided by Dr Thomas Hayes, a Higher Scientific Officer at the Royal Armaments and Research Defence Establishment (RARDE). 

Hayes was never disciplined for his actions. Indeed, he was soon to be promoted to head of department. His career would in time merge into the Lockerbie investigation and trial. Here is part of an account of his appearance at Kamp Zeist, alongside his colleague Allan Feraday:

Day 15: June 5th 2000

Dr Thomas Hayes was formerly head of the Forensics explosives laboratory at the British Royal Armaments Research and Defence Establishment (RARDE). He would prove a central figure in the prosecution case.
At the time of the trial he was aged fifty three, having retired from his RARDE post ten years earlier just as the joint Scottish police and FBI investigation into the Lockerbie attack was reaching its climax. 

As a bachelor of science honours in chemistry, a master of science in the faculty of forensic science, a doctor of philosophy in the faculty of forensic science, a chartered chemist, and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, we might expect an outstanding memory. 

And yet he seemed reluctant to tell the court when he'd resigned in order to commence a radically new career as a chiropodist. When did he start work at Fort Halstead? "In July 1974." And when did he leave? “The exact date of my leaving is a little circumspect, but I believe it was in 1990." 

He actually resigned in 1989, a year that for him may have been circumspect, but was, in relation to the Lockerbie trial, most significant. For he possessed an uncomfortable history in relation to another major terrorist event, namely the alleged IRA bombing involving members of the Maguire family - The Maguire Seven

In that trial Hayes and two of his colleagues were aware of evidence consistent with the innocence of the accused, decided among themselves that this evidence be not declared, and did not mention it during the trial. 

The first of the three was Douglas Higgs, Principal Scientific Officer and head of department; second was Walter Elliott, a Senior Scientific Officer; and the third was Hayes, at that time a Higher Scientific Officer.

During the trial, results of tests for traces of nitro-glycerine on skin and fingernails of the Maguire family were firmly maintained by the three scientists to be positive and decisive. Unknown to the court, however, the three had performed a second set of tests plus a series of experiments. Both tests and experiments indicated a negative result and an innocent means of contamination, and this information was recorded in their forensic notebooks. 

It was only through a Parliamentary inquiry by a senior judge, Sir John May, beginning in September 1989 and concluding in July 1990 that the matter was exposed.  

Sir John discovered that the notebooks of the three scientists had been deliberately concealed from the court, and cross-examination of witnesses for the prosecution therefore severely hampered. 

His main conclusions include the statement: "...  the whole scientific basis upon which the prosecution [of Ann Maguire and six members of her family] was founded was in truth so vitiated that on this basis alone the Court of Appeal should be invited to set aside the convictions." [1]  (Wikipedia summary)

[1] Rt Hon. Sir John May, Interim Report on the Maguire Case, 12th July 1990, and Second Report on the Maguire Case, 3rd December 1992.


1 comment:

  1. Dr Udo Ulfkotte