Miscarriages of justice

IN THE immediate aftermath of the greatest breakdown in public law and order in living memory in the form of mindless destruction, theft and sheer thuggery, your columnist, Philip Circus (County Times August 11) chose an opportune moment to argue the case for the re-introduction of capital punishment.

At a guess, many of your readers will readily agree with his sentiments - the majority being in favour of the death penalty for murder - especially that of a policeman.

As a lawyer of some distinction, Mr Circus at times offers a cavalier argument in defence of the death penalty.

Despite compelling evidence to the contrary, Mr Circus makes the dubious claim that ‘in this country it has never been proved conclusively that an innocent person has been hanged in error’.

And to bolster his case, he cites the case of Timothy Evans who in 1950 was tried and hanged for the murder of his wife, Beryl and their baby daughter at the notorious 10 Rillington Place, the home of serial killer John Reginald Halliday Christie - who later confessed to having murdered Mrs Evans.

It should also be remembered that that Timothy Evans was educationally subnormal - being virtually illiterate.

If that is not conclusive evidence of a miscarriage of justice, I don’t know what is.

In his article, Mr Circus makes no mention of another controversial hanging - that of Derek Bentley - again a young man who had an IQ of just 66 - whom I suggest was wrongly convicted of the murder of a policeman - PC Sidney Miles in Croydon in 1952 - and was condemned to be hanged.

All the evidence points to a gross miscarriage of justice showing, beyond all reasonable doubt, that Bentley’s accomplice - an under-age youth, Christopher Craig - was actually responsible for the cold blooded shooting of PC Miles, and who because of his tender years, survived the gallows. Is that really the kind of justice that Mr Circus seeks to reintroduce?

Given the recent terrible events, it is understandable that we should all demand stiffer penalties from an increasingly out of touch liberal judiciary hamstrung by political correctness.

‘Bring back National Service’ or ‘Bring back the birch’ are demands that will be echoed in tap-room bars up and down the country. And rightly so.

But to my mind, the reintroduction of the death penalty with all the attendant sensational media coverage leading up to the nauseous ‘nine o’clock drop’ would be a regressive step in what we still like to claim to be a civilised society.


Ayshe Court Drive, Horsham