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Thursday, July 30, 1998 Published at 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK


Bentley relatives 'thrilled' by appeal outcome

Maria Bentley-Dingwall outside the Court of Appeal

Maria Bentley-Dingwall, the niece of Derek Bentley whose murder conviction has been quashed by the Court of Appeal - has expressed her delight at the news.

She emerged smiling from the courthouse and told the waiting media: "All our fight has been worthwhile for this judgment. We always knew Derek never killed anybody.

[ image: Derek Bentley's niece celebrates the news]
Derek Bentley's niece celebrates the news
"He never deserved to hang, and the one thing that torments me today is that Derek won't be able to walk free and that my mother, Iris, is unable to be with me.

"My mother was at the forefront of this campaign. She fought for 46 years of her life and lost it last January.

"She really did deserve to be here celebrating with us and, besides Derek not walking free and my mother not being here, today is a great victory for British justice."

Ms Bentley-Dingwall later said: "I'm absolutely thrilled and so happy, but my mum should be sitting here with me."

She also said she hoped capital punishment would never be reintroduced.

"There always could be miscarriages of justice."

Ms Bentley-Dingwall added: "The death penalty is so final. It is down to the penal system to rehabilitate those who commit murder."

[ image: Ben Birnberg attacked the Home Office]
Ben Birnberg attacked the Home Office
Her solicitor, Ben Birnberg, attacked the succession of home secretaries who failed to take action.

"The story of the Home Office obstruction and indifference is atrocious. They had every opportunity year after year to refer this case to the court or to a public inquiry," he said.

He also criticised the Home Office for their treatment of the Bentley family.

Ben Birnberg: "Home Office obstruction was atrocious"
"When Derek's parents went to Wandsworth Prison every year to lay a commorative wreath, there were orders from the Home Office to destroy the wreath. That happened year after year.

"They then asked to see the grave in the prison. That was refused. They then asked for a Christian reburial outside the prison. Year after year that was refused."

[ image: Hugh Maw taught Bentley in the 1940s]
Hugh Maw taught Bentley in the 1940s
Bentley's former teacher, Hugh Maw, said that he was "delighted and elated" by the news.

He expressed his amazement that he had never been called to give evidence or reports of his time as Bentley's teacher.

He spoke of Bentley as a non-violent, "educationally subnormal" boy who could not read or write.

"He was bullied and easily led. He was never a leader. Whenever there was a plan to do anything, he was always left and held responsible while the others escaped."

Mixed feelings

Dennis Bentley, Derek's brother, spoke with sadness of the effect the murder conviction had on his family.

Dennis Bentley, after the conviction was quashed: "The campaign will continue"
He said his father, a fit man who served in the army, became obsessed with his son's death before he himself died aged 69.

"I watched the family disintegrate. It is hard to analyse it so much now but it was a slow process."

Mr Bentley also expressed his regret that his sister, Iris, who fought the campaign for the conviction to be quashed, never saw the outcome of her struggle.

"There is no celebration. My brother can be laid to rest but there are no winners," he said.

Bentley's accomplice, Christopher Craig, who fired the fatal shots, issued a statement expressing his regret that it had taken so long for the conviction to be overturned.

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