by Peter Stanford
THREE church leaders from the city where their alleged crimes took place have called for a review of the case of the Birmingham Six. Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville has joined his Anglican and Free Church counterparts in appealing to Home Secretary, Divid Waddington. to look again at the convictions of six Irishmen found guilty in 1975 of pub bombings which left 21 people dead in the Midlands city.
"The people of this country have cherished a love of justice, so that the possibility that anyone has been unjustly condemned would cause deep concern at any time", the three churchmen write. "In view of the recent release of the Guildford Four we ask that the case of the Birmingham Six should be reexamined."
Archbishop Couve de Murville, Anglican Bishop Mark Santer and the Revd David Good of the Free Churches stressed the importance of being "certain that innocent people have not been convicted in the case of an appalling crime like the Birmingham pub bombings".
The three clerics refer to a 1988 appeal court hearing of the case against the Birmingham Six, and judges ruling then that the convictions were "both safe and satisfactory". "We wonder whether the judges would reach the same conclusions today", they write.
The three also raise questions about "the adequacey of currect procedures for reviewing cases of possible wrongful conviction", and deal with the recent decision by the Chief Constable of the West Midlands to set up an inquiry into allegations of malpractice in his serious crimes squad which was responsible for questioning the Birmingham Six. The convicted men have all along maintained that their "confessions" were forced out of them by police officers, and the three churchmen suggest that the Chief Constable's inquiry should look into those charges.
Speaking at the General Synod of the Church of England in London this week Bishop Santer made it clear that he had not discussed the case of the Birmingham Six with Cardinal Hume who led the campaign to free the Guildford Four, also convicted in 1975 of pub bombings.
Archbishop Couve de Murville has visited four of the six
Birmingham men on various occasions in prison, his press officer said this week.