Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Thursday, July 30, 1998 Published at 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK


UK

Bentley hanged on 'highly suspect' evidence

Bentley: the last man to hang in Britain


Bentley's neice, Maria Bentley Dingwall: "Ours is the strongest case"
The Court of Appeal was told that Derek Bentley, the teenager hanged for murdering a policeman 45 years ago, had been convicted on "highly suspect" evidence.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, counsel for Bentley's family, said his trial in 1952 was "grossly unfair". His execution was "nothing short of cruel given his mental age, mental defects and epilepsy".

The jury at the time made a plea for mercy, which was ignored.

'Little choice but to convict'

Mr Fitzgerald said the trial judge had acted with "blatant prejudice" and misdirected the jury in such a way that "this conviction simply cannot stand".

He said the trial judge, Lord Chief Justice Goddard, "poured scorn on the defence and the defendant, extolled the virtues of the police officers and left the jury with little choice but to do what he presented to them as their duty, and convict".

The case always turned on the famous phrase he allegedly uttered shortly before his accomplice shot dead a policeman: "Let him have it."


[ image: Craig shortly after his arrest]
Craig shortly after his arrest
The Crown alleged at Bentley's trial in 1952 that the crucial words were those of an angry young man urging his accomplice, Christopher Craig to shoot.

Mr Fitzgerald told the court that there was the "gravest doubt" as to whether those words were ever spoken and there was "good reason to doubt the veracity" of the officers involved in the case.

Bentley and Craig always denied that he had said those words.

The same words were used to convict another man, Appleby, in the shooting of a policeman 10 years earlier.

"It is too striking a coincidence that Bentley, a 19-year-old of very limited intelligence, should use precisely the same words," Mr Fitzgerald said.


The BBC's Jane Peel: "New evidence suggests Bentley had a mental age of about 10"
Derek Bentley was mentally handicapped - a fact that never emerged at the trial.

"Had this evidence been available at trial," Mr Fitzgerald said, "it would have cast doubt on some of the assumptions invited".

Far from being homicidal, Mr Fitzgerald said Derek Bentley had shown "complete co-operation" with the police from the time of his capture.

He had not tried to escape and had warned the officers that Craig was dangerous.

Craig ready to testify

Mr Fitzgerald said that Christopher Craig, now 61 and a retired farmer is prepared to give his account of what happened and invited the Court of Appeal judges to call him.

Craig, shot the policeman when he was 16, but was too young to hang and served 10 years in prison.

Bentley's sister Iris mounted a lifelong campaign to quash Bentley's conviction after he was executed at Wandsworth Prison in January 1953.

In 1993 a limited posthumous pardon was granted, accepting Bentley should not have been hanged, although maintaining his guilt.

In November last year the Criminal Cases Review Commission announced the case would be sent back for The Court of Appeal to reconsider.

Iris Bentley's daughter, Maria Bentley-Dingwall, took over the campaign to win a full pardon.P>



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Scotland
Wales
England
Relevant Stories

06 Nov 97 | UK
Bentley case breakthrough

19 Jul 98 | UK
Let him have justice, say campaigners





Internet Links

Derek Bentley page


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online