The spate of wrongful convictions in high-profile murder and terrorism cases which followed the freeing of Guildford Four in October 1989 wiped the complacent smile off the face of the British judiciary and shook the entire legal system to its foundations. Something very serious must have gone wrong when so many innocent people were convicted in so many cases: the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1975; the three men convicted of the 1985 murder of PC Blakelock in the so-called Broadwater Farm riots; Judy Ward, convicted of the M62 motorway bombing; Eddie Browning, convicted of the 1988 M50 murder; the Darvell brothers, convicted of the murder of a Swansea shop manager; Alban Turner, convicted of the 1987 Notting Hill carnival murder – and many others – were released after being convicted in full-length murder trials in which the whole expensive array of British justice was on show for all to see.
This great stream of acquittals was not accidental. They arose naturally from a system of justice which preferred to convict the accused rather than examine the truth about the crime. Rotten forensics, enforced confessions, bogus statements from grasses; the pattern of incompetent or biased prosecutions established itself again and again.
The world know about most of those injustices, thanks to a small band of dedicated journalists who refused to be browbeaten by the police and prosecution and eventually bust the cases open. Satish Sekar absorbed himself in one of the most monstrous of these injustices, the case of the Cardiff Three. To all the usual ingredients of injustice, the Cardiff Three case added a new one: racial prejudice. My own interest in the case was provoked when a man rang me at the Daily Mirror where I then worked. He had walked straight from the court to the telephone box indignant. “We have been acquitted,” he said, “and the blacks have been convicted.1 But we are all innocent.”
Satish Sekar has devoted much oh his life to a full exposé of this shocking case and its outcome. His book is monument to his endless hard work on and devotion to his case. It should be a permanent feature in any lawyerʼs office: a grim reminder of what went wrong and a warning that nothing of the kind can be allowed to happen again.
1 The cousins John and Ronnie Actie who were acquitted were light skinned mixed race, whereas Yusef Abdullahi, Steve Miller and Tony Paris were much darker skinned.