§ 2. Mr. Corbyn
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to complete his review of the Carl Bridgewater case; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr. David Maclean)
I shall reply to the representations that I received on 8 June when they have been fully considered, and after any necessary further inquiries have been carried out.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Is it not now obvious to the Minister and to all normal thinking people in the country that there is something seriously wrong with the conviction of the Bridgewater Three? In the light of the revelations made by the foreman of the jury at the original trial about the 431 evidence that was put before the jury, is it not obvious that it is time for the Home Office rapidly to complete its review of the evidence that was put before it and enable justice to be considered by referring the case back to the Court of Appeal? The issue could then be brought out into the open again and justice could finally be done.
§ Mr. Maclean
It is highly premature of the hon. Gentleman to jump to that conclusion. I assure him that we shall pay close attention to Mr. O'Malley's views when we look again at the case. However, it is well established that a simple change of mind by a juror cannot by itself have any legal significance for the safety of a conviction. The solicitor for the convicted man acknowledged that point in the recent petition. I repeat that we shall consider carefully all the representations that we have received before coming to any conclusion.
§ Mr. Garnier
Does my hon. Friend recall that in the past few weeks one of the defendants in the Bridgewater case has been demonstrating on the roof of Gartree prison in my constituency? Will he take this opportunity to congratulate the governor of that prison on his calm handling of the demonstration and to congratulate the Prison Service and the local police on bringing the matter to a close without injury or loss of life? Does he agree the proper way to deal with complaints such as that raised by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) is to approach the Home Office directly rather than demonstrating on or about the prison?
§ Mr. Maclean
I congratulate the governor of the prison and his staff most sincerely on the sensible and caring way in which they handled that demonstration. I can only agree with my hon. Friend. We shall consider the representations that have been received thoroughly and carefully before coming to any conclusion on the matter. External demonstrations do not help our deliberative processes one iota.
§ Mr. Mullin
May I put it as gently as possible to the Minister that it is obvious to most sensible people who take a serious interest in the case that there is something seriously wrong and that the case should go back to the Court of Appeal? There is also an urgent need for the Home Office to demonstrate that it has learnt some lessons from the events of the past five years. Therefore, the sooner the case is referred back to the Court of Appeal, the better.
§ Mr. Maclean
I do not suppose that this is the first time that it has been said to the hon. Gentleman that his opening remarks were phrased in a slightly biased way. It is not for the Home Office to decide the guilt or innocence of the men. That is for the Court of Appeal. The issues that have been raised recently in publicity have been considered by the Court of Appeal in previous reviews. However, fresh representations have been made and we are going through them carefully to determine whether they contain any information that suggests that new evidence could he referred to the Court of Appeal. Of course, we want to reach conclusions as soon as we can, but it is more important that we are careful and exact in our deliberations.