HC Deb 26 June 1991 vol 193 cc490-1W
Sir John Wheeler

To ask the Secrertary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Maguire case.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

On 12 July 1990, my predecessor referred to the Court of Appeal, under section 17(1)(a)of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968, the cases f Mr. and Mrs. Maguire, their sons, Vincent and Patrick, Mr. William Smyth and Mr. Patrick O'Neill. At the same time, he also sought the views of the Court of Appeal as to whether it was possible to refer to the court, under section 17(1) (a), the case of Mr. Patrick "Guiseppe' Conlon, who died in 1980. The court subsequently decided it could consider such a reference under section 17(1) (a), and the case was regarded as having been referred accordingly. My predecessor referred these cases in the light of the interim report of Sir John May who, on 19 October 1989, had been appointed by the Government to inquire into the circumstances leading to and deriving from the trial of the Maguire family and their co-defendants, as well as that of the Guildford Four.

The Court of Appeal has now quashed the convictions of all seven defendants for the unlawful possession of explosives. Under the provisions of section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, any person whose conviction has been quashed on the basis of a new or newly discovered fact following a reference by the Home Secretary of the case to the Court of Appeal is entitled to apply for compensation. The amount will be decided on the basis of advice from an independent assessor. I will, of course, give careful consideration to any application that is made to me by the Maguire family and their co-defendants. In the case of Mr. Patrick "Guiseppe" Conlon, I will be prepared to consider an application from his family or other personal representative.

It is a matter of concern that there should have been such a serious miscarriage of justice in this case, which has resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of those involved. The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, which I announced on 14 March, was established in part to ensure that, so far as possible, the likelihood of such events happening again would be minimised. The royal commission will be able to take this case into account during its deliberations. At the same time, I understand that Sir John May will continue to look into various aspects of the Maguires' case, and the Government will consider very carefully any further report by Sir John May.

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