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Last Updated: Friday, 28 April 2006, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Jailed supporter denied retrial
Michael Shields in jail
Michael Shields has consistently protested his innocence
Liverpool football fan Michael Shields, serving a jail term for the attempted murder of a barman in Bulgaria, has been refused a retrial.

But the Bulgarian Supreme Court has cut his sentence from 15 to 10 years and ordered him to pay a 71,000 fine.

Shields, 19, of Wavertree, Liverpool, has always denied attacking Martin Georgiev in the Black Sea resort of Varna in May 2005.

His family, MP and MEP have expressed shock and outrage at the decision.

Shields, who was in Bulgaria after watching Liverpool's Champions League victory in Turkey, maintains he was in bed when a paving slab was dropped on Mr Georgiev's head.

Michael Shields' family home
We are totally dumbfounded - we don't know what to do next
Jeanette Shields, Michael's aunt

A confession made in the UK by another Liverpool man, Graham Sankey, was not accepted by the Bulgarian courts.

But Mr Sankey's solicitor now says that does not relate to Shields' case.

David Kirwan said of Friday's verdict: "Anyone who has looked at the evidence in the case can see that it is riddled with inconsistencies.

"The very least that Michael deserved was a retrial.

Shields' father, also called Michael, and his mother Marie were in Varna when they heard the news.

Mr Shields said he was "very angry" and was trying to come to terms with the decision.

It is very disappointing that a retrial has not been granted
Arlene McCarthy, Liverpool Labour MEP
"However, I must continue to stress our belief that any incident that Graham was involved in is separate to the one for which Michael Shields was convicted."

"We are so angry and disappointed, we're devastated. I'm just baffled by the way this country works," he said.

"We were hoping the court would overturn Michael's conviction, or give him a retrial so he could prove his innocence.

"Instead, they have just knocked five years off his sentence, which is no comfort to me whatsoever because my son is innocent."

Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, said she was "very disappointed" with the outcome and insisted that the campaign to prove Shields' innocence and secure his release would continue.

"While the reduction in sentence is welcome, it is very disappointing that a retrial has not been granted," she said.

Mrs Ellman said she would calling on Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to raise the matter with the Bulgarian authorities.

Martin Georgiev
Shields says he was in bed when barman Martin Georgiev was hit

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said they could not interfere in the Bulgarian judicial process.

"If lawyers for Michael Shields wanted to apply for a prisoner transfer so he could serve his sentence in the UK, they would have to apply through the Bulgarian legal system," he said.

The spokesman confirmed that a Foreign Office representative had visited Michael Shields in prison on Friday and had spoken to his family.

The Foreign Office's role, now that the appeal is over, is to look after Mr Shields' welfare.

Liverpool Labour MEP, Arlene McCarthy said she was outraged at the result and had lodged a complaint about Bulgaria with the justice department of the European Commission.

"I will continue to push for Michael's right to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights and will be exploring all avenues that are now available to him," she said.

"There were clear flaws in the investigation of this crime and the following trial. This must be acknowledged by the judiciary in Bulgaria."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The sister of Michael Shields speaks out on his appeal



SEE ALSO:
MP blasts delays over jailed fan
27 Apr 06 |  Merseyside
'Cruel' twist in fan retrial bid
21 Apr 06 |  Merseyside
Jailed fan faces wait over appeal
21 Mar 06 |  Merseyside
Bulgaria 'attack' fan faces ban
09 Mar 06 |  Merseyside
Blair urged to meet fan's family
30 Nov 05 |  Merseyside
Council criticised over jail case
21 Nov 05 |  Merseyside


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