Guildford Four and Maguire Seven: Wikis


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The Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven were two sets of people wrongfully convicted in the 1970s by English courts who later had their convictions quashed. The Guildford Four were convicted of bombings carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Maguire Seven were convicted of handling explosives found during the investigation into the bombings. Both groups' convictions were declared unsafe and reversed after they had served time in prison.[1]


Maguire Seven

The Maguire Seven were charged with possessing nitroglycerine allegedly passed to the IRA to make bombs after the police had raided the West Kilburn house of Anne Maguire on 3 December 1974.

They were tried and convicted on 4 March 1976 and received the following sentences:

  • Anne Maguire, aged 40, was sentenced to 14 years
  • her husband Patrick Maguire, aged 42, was sentenced to 14 years
  • their son Patrick Maguire, aged 14, was sentenced to 4 years
  • their son Vincent Maguire, aged 17, was sentenced to 5 years
  • William Smyth, brother to Anne Maguire, aged 37, received 12 years
  • Patrick O'Neill, a family friend, aged 35, received 12 years
  • Patrick "Guiseppe" Conlon, brother-in-law to Anne Maguire, aged 52, received 12 years. Conlon had travelled from Belfast to help his son Gerry Conlon in the Guildford Four trial.

Guiseppe Conlon, who had troubles with his lungs for many years, died in prison in January 1980, while the other six served their sentences and were released.

Guildford Four

The Guildford Four were charged with direct involvement with the IRA attacks. They were:

  • Paul Michael Hill, aged 21 at the time of trial, convicted of the Guildford pub bombings, the Kings Arms, Woolwich bombing and, separately, the murder of British soldier Brian Shaw, confessed to during the same questioning.
  • Gerard "Gerry" Conlon, 21, convicted of the Guildford bombings.
  • Patrick "Paddy" Armstrong, 25, convicted of the one Woolwich and two Guildford bombings.
  • Carole Richardson, 18, convicted of the Guildford bombings.

After their arrest, all four defendants confessed to the bombing. These statements were later retracted, but nonetheless formed the basis of the case against them. They would later be explained as the result of coercion by the police ranging from intimidation to torture, including threats against family members, as well as the effects of drug withdrawal.[2]

They were convicted in October 1975 for murder and other charges and sentenced to life imprisonment, as mandatory for adults convicted of murder. Richardson, a minor at the time of the bombings, received an indeterminate At Her Majesty's Pleasure sentence for murder but a life one for conspiracy. Mr Justice Donaldson, who also presided over the Maguire Seven trial, expressed regret that the Four had not been charged with treason, which then still had a mandatory death penalty. At the time, the normal practice was for judges to be consulted by the Home Secretary when considering release from a life sentence rather than giving a tariff at trial, but the judge, believing he might be dead by the time they were released, recommended 30 years for Conlon, 35 for Armstrong and until "great age" for Hill. By comparison, the guilty Balcombe Street Gang received recommendations of 30 years; the Birmingham Six's judge chose not to give a recommendation.

There was never any evidence that any of "The Four" had been involved with the Provisional IRA. Furthermore, they did not 'fit the bill' in terms of lifestyle. Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson, an Englishwoman, lived in a squat, and were involved with drugs and petty crime. Paul Michael Hill was born and raised in Belfast in a mixed-religion marriage, as a boy he participated in the widespread rioting at the time[3].


On the night of the attacks, Richardson was in London seeing the band Jack the Lad at the then South Bank Polytechnic. She was unable to recall this upon being arrested, but witnesses came forward. However, the prosecution were able to put together a version of events whereby she left Guildford at high speed by car. Hill and Armstrong also presented alibis, Hill's placing him at Southampton. A witness named Charles Burke placed Conlon at a London hostel, but his evidence was not presented at trial.


Both the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven unsuccessfully appealed against their convictions immediately afterwards. Despite this, a growing body of disparate groups pressed for a re-examination of the case.

In February 1977, during the trial of the Balcombe Street ASU, the four IRA men instructed their lawyers to "draw attention to the fact that four totally innocent people were serving massive sentences", referring to the Guildford Four.[4] Despite claims to the police that they were responsible [4] they were never charged with these offences and the Guildford Four remained imprisoned for another twelve years.

In 1986 Robert Kee published Trial & Error: the Maguires, the Guildford pub bombings and British justice.

The Guildford Four tried to make an appeal under Section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (later repealed), but were unsuccessful and, in 1987 the Home Office issued a memorandum, recognizing that it was unlikely the Four were terrorists but that this would not be sufficient evidence for appeal.

Quashing of the Guildford verdict

In 1989, a detective looking at the case found typed notes from Patrick Armstrong's police interviews, which had been heavily edited. Deletions and additions had been made, and the notes had been rearranged. These notes, and their amendments, were consistent with hand-written and typed notes presented at the trial, which suggested that the hand-written notes were made after the interviews had been conducted. The implication of this was that the police had manipulated the notes, to fit with the case they wanted to present.

An appeal was granted on the basis of this new evidence. Lord Gifford QC represented Paul Hill and others were represented by noted human rights solicitor, Gareth Peirce. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, said that the police had either:

  • "completely fabricated the typed notes, amending them to make them look more effective, and then creating hand-written notes to give the appearance of contemporaneous notes"; or
  • "started off with contemporaneous notes, typed them up to make them more legible, amended them to make them read better, and then converted them back to hand-written notes."

Either way, the police had lied, and the conclusion was if they had lied about this, the entire evidence was misleading, and the Four were released in 1989, after having their convictions reversed.

Paul Hill had also been convicted of the murder of a British soldier, Brian Shaw, based on his confession while in the custody of Surrey Police, was released on bail, pending his appeal against this conviction. In 1994, the Court of Appeal in Belfast quashed Hill's conviction for Brian Shaw's murder.

On 12 July 1990, the Home Secretary David Waddington published the Interim Report on the Maguire Case: The Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the convictions arising out of the bomb attacks in Guildford and Woolwich in 1974[5], which criticised the trial judge Justice Donaldson and unearthed improprieties in the handling of scientific evidence and declared the convictions unsound recommending referral back to the Court of Appeal.

Quashing of the Maguire verdicts

The verdicts against the Maguire Seven were repealed in 1991. The court held that members of the London Metropolitan Police beat some of the Seven into confessing to the crimes and withheld information that would have cleared them.[6]


Neither the bombings nor the wrongful imprisonment resulted in convictions. The bombings were most likely the work of the Balcombe gang, who claimed responsibility. They were already serving life, but were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Three British police officers; Thomas Style, John Donaldson and Vernon Attwell; were charged, but they were each found not guilty.[7]

On 9 February 2005, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair issued an apology to the families of the eleven people imprisoned for the bombings in Guildford and Woolwich, and those related to them who were still alive, by saying, in part: "I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and injustice...they deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated."[8]

Paul Hill married Courtney Kennedy, daughter of assassinated American senator Robert F. Kennedy, and niece of assassinated president John F. Kennedy, although they have been reported to have separated. He has had a televised meeting with the brother of Brian Shaw, who continued to accuse him[9], and has travelled to Colombia to attend the trial of the Colombia Three.[10]

Gerry Conlon's autobiography Proved Innocent was adapted into the Oscar and BAFTA Award - nominated 1993 film In The Name of the Father, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson and Pete Postlethwaite. The film depicts Conlon's attempt to rebuild his shattered relationship with his father. He is reported to have settled with the government for a final payment of compensation in the region of £400,000 to £500,000.[11]. His mother Sarah Conlon, who had spent 16 years campaigning to have the names of her husband and son cleared and helped secure the apology died on 20 July 2008. "[12] He has been reported to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had involvement with drugs in the aftermath of his release. He has given support to Tommy Sheridan in relation to the charges brought against him.[13]

Paddy Armstrong had difficulty with drinking and gambling. He later married and moved to Dublin.[14]

Carole Richardson married and had a daughter soon after her release. She has kept a low profile.[15]

Many of the relatives and ancestors from the Conlon family live in the United States today and continue to keep Gerry Conlon's ordeal in the hearts of as many people as they can as a reminder of the grave injustices done.

See also


External links



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