Sir Michaels’ vision for our Capital Trials
Why did Sir Michael Havers, a Tory MP, decide to represent the Crown as leading counsel in the Guilford Four murder trials? Because he wished to stamp out the thinking these murders may be “overlooked” and they were in truth very grave murders and many blameless persons died at the hands of these four terrorists. This trial so crucial to our criminal justice, still to this day, may never have gone ahead without the professional backing of Sir Michael himself. He was no socialist, yet he was being asked to lead for the Crown in this never to be forgotten trial of these murders, so callous and his instructions come from the Labour PM’s Wilson and Callaghan. Why was this trial so axiomatic? Not just because the evidence demanded these four to be indicted, arraigned and tried for cold blooded murders by detonated devices: crude but effective to kill more than a few. Yes explosions of this sort are deadly and these perpetrators got away unharmed.
They were a form of grenade but for worse in effect on the human innocent targets: simply detonated “bombs” thrown into the crowded areas of these public houses to inflict maximum harm and death.
I return to my question what was at the back of Sir Michael’s mind, a seasoned Criminal Trial Advocate for the Crown? He had been Senior Counsel since at least 1970 when Heath made him our Solicitor-General. He was earmarked to be Attorney-General. Even the Labour government of 1974-79 recognised his prowess in Court in Serious Criminal Trials.
I believe Sir Michael supported hanging for all the reasons in my essays published: particularly Capital Punishment Discourse: 2/7/2013 and Sir Michael Havers QC and the Cabinet: 24/11/2017. His father Sir Cecil Havers was a well-regarded Queens Bench trial Judge who passed sentence of death on Ruth Ellis for murder by revolver at point blank range in 1955. That Judicial Pedigree would not be lost on Sir Michael who never tried Capital cases himself. His metier foremost was Trial Counsel for the Crown and Senior Counsel at that. He was an advocate in adversarial trials in England and Wales for almost all his law career, even as Attorney-General: 1979-1987. In his day the Attorney was head of the Criminal Bar and the Bur generally. He was well suited to lead that cohort of Barristers in practise.
How should we view Sir Michael’s stand against the Guilford Four and the provisional IRA (their backers) in this famous trial of all Irish terrorists trials in London in the 20th Century ?Sir Michael would never back down. That applied to his conduct of the Guildford Four trial for the Crown. He went to the core of this case and secured the convictions of these four which held firm for 15 years to 1989. (At least 14 years). I am not concerned with the various appeals by these four they are “water under the bridge”, these appeal Judges did their duty to this case. (These trial verdicts were absolutely vital to my polemic).
Sir Michael perceived that his stand in this trial was to resist the thinking of the “abolitionists” that such murder trials would never become Death Sentence cases in years to come in our jurisdiction of England and Wales. He could not see forward into the Guildford four post-trial scenario and those appeals. By his highly tenacious and incisive presentation of the Crown’s case in this Guildford four trial he raised the real prospect of the return of hanging for murderers convicted. Sir Michael did this single handed in this case. In English criminal trials there is always a live and triable issue if a Not Guilty plea is entered and the jury are sworn and Defence Counsel appears for the accused. It is no foregone conclusion. You cannot as Counsel win every case. Even Sir Michael saw the Guildford Four defeat the Crown case he had argued strongly at trial when their last appeal was allowed.
Why do I say this? Because in reality we will always have trial by jury for Capital murder if we restore hanging. The restoration of hanging will be constructed on jury trials and let us not forget juries may surprise us: guilty verdict or not guilty. That is jury trial properly at work; moreover that was Sir Michael’s Criminal Justice in his trial advocacy. Thus his solid Senior Crown Counsel Court room persuasion, in his day, delivers now the return of Capital Punishment if we read him truly in this Guildford Four trial and correctly, (he is deceased nearly 30 years) I say his stand at the Old Bailey in the trial of these four convinces me he sought to disprove the (abolitionist) thinking based on minimising the seriousness of murder thus preventing indefinitely the rearmament of our Trial Judges to pass sentence of Death. By my understanding the abolition lobby seek to “pastoralise” our Capital Trials Justice and our Judges in the making and create an immovable status quo whereby our Criminal Justice can never go back to the judicially imposed Final Penalty. Sir Michael, who “ read “ Criminal Justice in England with a razor sharp eye in his practising days to 1987, saw this state of affairs, he could not himself change it. He still believed Judge led Death Sentences should be revived. He was the QC who stood up to the “defeatist” vocal lobby of abolitionists, until he retired as Lord Chancellor from the law at the end of his illustrious career, (1987)
Trial by Jury Our English Judges of murder cases will always defend the right to jury trial for those accused of murder –once hanging is brought back for convicted murderers. Of that I am sure. Sir Michael would be with them all the way. The moral of this leading Crown Counsel and of this short paper is the same: Bring back the Death Penalty for murder in England and Wales by discretion of the Trial Judges of our High Court Bench. Do not delay that restoration I urge my readers!
Temon Estate, Dartford