Guildford Four: Muslims 'could face repeat' of IRA bomb miscarriage of justice

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image captionMichael Mansfield QC warned Muslims in the UK were being "criminalised" and were suffering similar prejudice faced by the Irish community in Great Britain during IRA bombing campaigns in the 1970s

Miscarriages of justice, similar to the Guildford Four case, could be repeated with Muslims as the new victims, a high-profile barrister has warned.

Michael Mansfield QC said Muslims were being "criminalised" in the UK in the same way as the Irish community living in Great Britain in the 1970s.

He was speaking after the death of one of the Guildford Four, Gerry Conlon.

Mr Conlon and his three co-accused spent 15 years in jail after they were wrongly convicted of IRA pub bombings.

Their convictions were quashed in 1989, following a long campaign for justice.

Mr Conlon, 60, died at the weekend after an illness. His family said his fight for justice had "forced the world's closed eyes to be opened to injustice".

Mr Mansfield, who represented the Guildford Four for a time, has also worked on a number of high-profile campaigns for justice including Bloody Sunday and that of the Birmingham Six.

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image captionGerry Conlon, pictured with his sisters after being released at the Old Bailey in 1989

He has also represented the families of the murder black teenager Stephen Lawrence, police shooting victims Jean Charles de Menezes and Mark Duggan and the relatives of those who died in the Hillsborough football disaster.

The barrister told BBC Radio Ulster that he was concerned future miscarriages of justice, similar to the case of the Guildford Four, could happen today.

"If you look at the attitude to the Muslim community, it is almost exactly the same as the attitude that was struck in relation to the Irish community in the 1970s," Mr Mansfield said.

"They are, in fact, being tarred with the same brush, they are being criminalised."

Mr Mansfield also expressed concerns over plans to hold an upcoming terrorism trial in secret.

Earlier this month, prosecutors made an unprecedented attempt to hold the first ever completely secret criminal trial in the UK, arguing it was in the interests of national security. However, the move was blocked by the Court of Appeal.

Judges ruled that the "core" of the terrorism trial could be partly heard in secret but parts must be in public.

The case of the Guildford Four - Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Carole Richardson and Paddy Armstrong - was among a number of high-profile miscarriages of justice set against the backdrop of the IRA's bombing campaign in Great Britain.

media captionGerry Conlon: "I've been in prison for 15 years for something I didn't do"

The four were arrested after the IRA set off two bombs in packed pubs in the town of Guildford in 1974. Five people were killed and 65 were injured in the attacks.

The following year, the Guildford Four were convicted of the pub bombings and jailed for life.

Their case was highlighted in the 1993 Oscar-nominated film In The Name Of The Father, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon.

All four vigorously protested their innocence and the Court of Appeal quashed their sentences in October 1989, amid doubts raised about the police evidence against them.

An investigation into the case by Avon and Somerset Police found serious flaws in the way Surrey Police handled the case - considered to be one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in Britain.

The perpetrators of the Guildford bomb attack have never been brought to justice.

When he emerged from court after his conviction was quashed, Mr Conlon said: "I have been in prison for something I did not do. I am totally innocent."

In 2009, he wrote about the emotional problems he endured as a result of his incarceration, revealing that he had suffered two breakdowns, and attempted suicide. He also developed an addiction to alcohol and drugs.

'Darkest hours'

Mr Conlon died at his home in the Falls Road area of west Belfast after an illness.

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image captionMr Conlon, pictured in 2013 at the funeral of SDLP MP Eddie McGrady

In a statement issued through his lawyer Gareth Peirce, Mr Conlon's family said: "He brought life, love, intelligence, wit and strength to our family through its darkest hours.

"He helped us to survive what we were not meant to survive.

"We recognise that what he achieved by fighting for justice for us had a far, far greater importance - it forced the world's closed eyes to be opened to injustice; it forced unimaginable wickedness to be acknowledged; we believe it changed the course of history.

"We thank him for his life and we thank all his many friends for their love."

The Maguire Seven

After Mr Conlon was jailed for the pub bombing, seven people were arrested because of a family connection to him.

Among them was Mr Conlon's father Giuseppe, who was arrested while travelling to London from Belfast to help his son.

They became known, as the Maguire Seven and were convicted and jailed for handling explosives, based on scientific evidence that was later entirely discredited.

Giuseppe Conlon died in prison in 1980.

The sentences given the Maguire Seven were overturned by the Court of Appeal in June 1991.

In 2005, the then prime minister, Tony Blair, issued a public apology to the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven for the miscarriages of justice they had suffered.

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