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The Birmingham Six: Their Own Story

In came to a shock for people when the famous Mulberry Bush pub, characteristically located at the bottom of the city’s rotunda tower, and the nearby tavern in the town, were both destroyed in quick succession on the 21st of November 1974. This lead to the imprisonment of six men – whom later came to be known as the infamous Birmingham Six – for their assault on public safety. These six men were identified to be Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker – all of which were sentenced to serve for life after their the jury came up with their consensus on 1975. In a miraculous turn of events, on March 1991, 16 years after the day when they were taken into custody, the Court of Appeal decided to relieve them of their charges.

A similar story account is that of the Guildford Four’s case. They were sentenced to serve life on the sole grounds of a confession on August 1975. The men had their right to appeal deferred seemingly indefinitely at the point of time. It was only in 1987 that their case reached the Court of Appeal, consequent to fresh evidence coming into the picture, only to be rejected much to the frustration of the public. By the power of public outrage it was in August 1990 when forensic studies finally revealed that the confessions against the men were indeed riddled with fabrications and anomalies. A film entitled “In the Name of the Father” is a retelling of the Guildford Four’s story.

It was Gareth Peirce, a human rights lawyer, who acquitted the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four of their wrongful sentences. He currently is spearheading the pursuit of justice for Jean Charles de Menezes and family.

The following is an interview with her:

Q: The I.R.A. suspects the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six spent years in jail before you secured their release. Do their cases offer lessons for today?

Peirce: “I think these cases were an object lesson in how not to do things. It was a very belated dawning that unless an entire national community and the reasons for the conflict were understood, and a political solution devised, there could never be an end to the armed struggle. Now that message has been ignored — there is a completely baffling and frightening failure to understand what motivates political Islam.”

Q: So you see parallels with the current situation?

Peirce: “Speaking to one of the Guildford Four recently, his reaction is: “Those poor guys, those Muslims — that’s exactly what happened to us. Has nobody learned?””

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