Convictions quashed

20 October 2014

The Guildford pub bombings occurred on 5 October 1974. Two pubs in Guildford, Surrey were targeted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) who detonated a six-pound gelignite bomb in each location. The pubs were selected as they were popular with British Army personnel stationed at the barracks in Pirbright. Sixty-five people were wounded and five people died in the bombing (four soldiers and one civilian).

At 20:30, the bomb in The Horse and Groom detonated, killing a 22-year-old local plasterer, Paul Craig, as well as two members of the Women’s Royal Army Corps and two Scots Guards. The other pub – The Seven Stars – was evacuated after the first blast and therefore, there were no serious injuries when the second bomb detonated at 21:00.

The bombings contributed to the speedy and unchallenged passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in November 1974, which were used by the Metropolitan Police to draw false confessions from the ‘Guildford Four’.

The bombings took place at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland. The Metropolitan Police were under enormous pressure to apprehend the IRA bombers responsible for the attacks in England. In December 1974, the police arrested three men and a woman, later known as the Guildford Four (pictured right). These were: Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson.

The Guildford Four were falsely convicted of the bombings in October 1975 and sentenced to life in prison. All the convictions were overturned on 20 October 1989 in the appeal courts after it was proven that the Guildford Four’s convictions had been based on confessions obtained by torture – as were some of the Maguire Seven’s convictions, which included Gerry Conlon’s father, Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon, who sadly died in his third year of imprisonment.

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