Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Political Pardons

I find this really uncomfortable:-

MICHAEL Shields was today set to be freed from jail after he was finally pardoned by Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

The 22-year-old has won his four-and-a-half-year fight to clear his name after a dramatic Government U-turn on his case.

In July, Mr Straw ruled he was not convinced the Edge Hill student was “morally and technically” innocent of the attempted murder of a Bulgarian waiter in 2005.

But today he announced that new evidence has convinced him to release Michael.

The reason why I find this uncomfortable is that it is a bypassing of the legal system by a politician.

Now, I know nothing about Michael Shields' case. Jack Straw may very well have evidence that would free him of his crime. But the process should be that this is presented to the Court of Appeal for them to decide.

It comes after Mr Straw held last-ditch talks with Michael’s parents and City Labour leader Joe Anderson at his constituency office in Blackburn on August 28.

It is understood new evidence presented to the secretary of state for justice at the meeting has led to his re-think.

Mr Straw has also come under increasing pressure from Merseyside MPs and crucially from Britain’s leading unions.

And this is why I'm especially uncomfortable. We have no evidence of this evidence even existing, and an alternative possibility is that Straw has no evidence and is releasing Shields on political grounds. I can't prove that, but nor is my hypothesis any weaker than Straw's.

If there is evidence or witnesses, it should be heard in a public court where judges can consider it in terms of how it affects guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That is the correct process.

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