HC Deb 15 February 1996 vol 271 cc1125-6
6. Mr. Mullin

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many fingerprints on the bicycle belonging to Carl Bridgewater are so far unidentified; and if he will make a statement. [13854]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Timothy Kirkhope)

Two fingerprints found on the bicycle have never been identified.

Mr. Mullin

How come 16 years elapsed before it was disclosed that two unidentified fingerprints were found on the bicycle belonging to Carl Bridgewater? May I put it to the Minister that this case is not going to go away, and that the quicker that it goes back to the Court of Appeal, the better for everyone concerned?

Mr. Kirkhope

The defendant's solicitors knew of unidentified fingerprints three weeks before the referred case in 1989. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the provisional conclusions in the case were sent to the applicant's solicitors on 7 December last year. We await their making further representations. That may well happen shortly and we will then consider them.

Mr. Ashby

In view of the fact that all that substantial doubt has arisen and that there is so much extra evidence that was not available at the trial, should not the case be sent to the Court of Appeal so that it can consider all the extra evidence? It is a very worrying case and there may well have been a substantial miscarriage of justice.

Mr. Kirkhope

The evidence and information obtained in the case have been thoroughly examined—extremely thoroughly examined—over a long period of time. Every item that has been raised that is alleged to be new evidence has been carefully considered. As I said, my right hon. and learned Friend has reached his professional conclusion that the case should not be referred back to the Court of Appeal. The applicant's solicitors have an opportunity to make further representations, if they so wish, and we understand that we may hear from them shortly.

Mr. Hattersley

Is the Minister aware that 14 years ago I asked the previous Home Secretary about the missing fingerprints? I received an answer that could charitably be described as inadequate. Does not the Minister understand that almost every week that passes a new doubt arises about the case? Sooner or later it will go to the Court of Appeal once more—why does not the Home Secretary do the proper thing and refer it there straight away?

Mr. Kirkhope

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise the thoroughness of the investigations and inquiries that have been carried out? Four police forces have looked into the matter; all the evidence and the extra allegations that have been produced have been looked into carefully. Despite that, the provisional conclusions are quite clear: that the matter should not be referred back. It is now up to the applicants to come forward with anything further that they wish to put up at this time before final conclusions are reached.

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