Guildford Four: Lord Imbert death 'loss of core witness'

Lord Peter Imbert
Image caption Lord Peter Imbert has died, aged 84

The death of a former police chief represents the loss of a "core witness" in the case of the Guildford Four, lawyers have said.

Former Metropolitan Police commissioner and chief constable of Thames Valley Police Lord Imbert has died, aged 84.

A claim he failed to follow up an IRA confession to the bombings was at the centre of calls for a resumed inquest.

Christopher Stanley of KRW Law said an investigation must go ahead for "truth, justice and accountability".

Surrey coroner Richard Travers has recently ordered a pre-inquest review into the blast deaths.

Five people died and 65 were injured in the 1974 bombings, but those responsible were never prosecuted.

The wrongfully convicted Guildford Four served 15 years in prison before they were released.

Image caption Two bombs went off in Guildford on 5 October 1974

Richard O'Rawe, who has written a biography of Guildford Four member Gerry Conlon, said: "Gerry believed the police were aware they were innocent and evidence has recently emerged showing in actual fact [they] were framed."

He said Lord Imbert "could have done the decent thing and owned up" to what the police allegedly did.

He added: "[He interrogated] not only the Guildford Four, but two members of the Balcombe Street IRA unit, who both told him and a colleague the Guildford Four were innocent and that they had carried out the bombings.

"Even though he heard these confessions first-hand, he did not inform the Guildford Four defence teams, nor were the Balcombe Street defendants ever charged. "

Surrey Police has previously said it was aware of submissions by human rights lawyers KRW Law to the Attorney General and the Surrey coroner.

The Guildford Four

  • 5 October 1974 - IRA bombs explode in two pubs in Guildford, Surrey, killing five people and injuring scores more. Guildford was known as a "garrison town", with several barracks nearby and a nightlife that was popular with the 6,000 military personnel in the area
  • 22 October 1975 - Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson - the Guildford Four - jailed for life at the Old Bailey
  • 19 October 1989 - After years of campaigning, the Court of Appeal quashes the convictions, ruling them as unsafe, and releases the four
  • 9 February 2005 - Prime Minister Tony Blair formally apologises to the Guildford Four for the miscarriage of justice they suffered

A force statement said: "The investigation was reviewed by Avon and Somerset Police in 1987.

"As a result, the Court of Appeal decided in 1989 that the convictions in 1975 were unsafe.

"A subsequent judicial enquiry was held by Sir John May... which led to the trial of three Surrey Police officers in relation to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

"They stood trial and were acquitted."

The force said it was awaiting a decision by the Attorney General.

The Attorney General is still considering a KRW submission for a fresh probe into the actions of police and prosecutors.

But a spokeswoman said Lord Imbert's death would not have any impact on the consideration of the matter.

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