The Carl Bridgewater Case In September 1978
This precious and untroubled boy’s life was taken from him as he did his humble tasks. The matter was put right by the Staffordshire Police and I, for one, will always stand by their first investigation resulting in the 1979 trial and those three convictions for this dreadful murder.
1. The Facts
The bare facts of this case require recitation: There was no doubt Carl, a 13 year old newspaper delivery boy, was shot and murdered during a burglary at the address of one of the persons’ home on his round in Staffordshire. The occupants were away. I believe the shooting was at point blank range into Carl’s head by a shot gun, not a firearm. The case attracted considerable public attention from 19 September 1978 when the murder took place. We are speaking of a murder after the abolition of Capital Punishment in 1968, and practically 35 to 40 years have elapsed since this deadly crime was committed.
The case cannot possibly be retried and the Court of Appeal Criminal Division never sought to do so. Three men were convicted of the murder, namely: James Robinson and Vincent Hickey (45 years and 25 years old respectively at the trial in November 1979) and Michael Hickey aged 17 years at the same trial. There was a fourth accused: Patrick Molloy (aged 51 years) when convicted of the manslaughter of Carl. In February 1997 the murder convictions were quashed, nearly 20 years later. Molloy had died during his sentence of imprisonment for this manslaughter of his in 1981, having also been sentence in November 1979. Robinson and Vincent Hickey both received life terms for the murder.
2. The Nature of my Analysis
Firstly, no Judge has declared these men innocent despite a strong campaign to free them, up to the successful Appeal in 1997. As any Judge will tell you, without reliable detectives particularly of senior rank, criminal justice would be in tatters. The same principle applied in the 1970’s as now. If the detectives behave with probity now, so they did 35 years before I argue. Of course there will be isolated rogues in the lower ranks as with any profession. No one has the right to pillory our police force in Staffordshire regarding this Bridgewater case. They knew far more about the evidence than anyone else ever knew, because they were seeking out the perpetrators of a cruel and intentional murder by shotgun and not all the trail is revealed or capable of disclosure. The scent did not go dead and the suspects were identified and brought to justice thankfully.
I am in no doubt the senior police commanders on this Bridgewater investigation acted without blemish, and what is more presented the relevant evidence to the prosecuting solicitors and Counsel and the Director of Public Prosecutions. It was not a political crime. The Judge and Counsel ensured a fair trial. The Jury did all expected of them. This is admittedly ex post facto deduction. I do not condemn the police who investigated this murder. They conducted it justly and efficiently but it was not easy. Anyone who casts doubt on these police of the 1970’s I speak of, damages themselves and our modern police today. Let the British police do what they are good at and investigate serious crime, but do not weigh them down with burdensome and unnecessary disclosure procedures.
I know and respect the Judges’ rulings on pre-trial disclosure; the procedure may yet change and be modified. If you are ashamed of our English police now, or for what they achieved so nobly 30-40 years ago many times over, I would say don’t enter the legal profession. It will jar with your intent and raison d’etre. The same applies, regarding the outlook on the police, to those training in Insurance, the Army, medicine, and even the study of history. Let us say you would be best to stay away from these walks of life if you seriously distrust our police. If you cannot accept their sincere resolve, present and past, you are driven to being ashamed of the English and Welsh police. Like it or not you are then detractors. The British police deserve better from these key professionals. You will end up being detrimental in your very attitude to our own Country. Yes we should move with the times but that is a trite remark. If you seek to profess criminal advocacy think of something more pertinent to say, and be positive about our police force and its work.
3. My Polemic in Carl’s Case Further Explained
I sincerely believe this Staffordshire police inquiry lead to these four properly being indicted, tried and found guilty. Yes I have faith in those police. Why has no other man been tried for this appalling murder? No one else is guilty I say, that is why. Where is the Waddell for Meehan? Meehan was convicted of murder (the Ayr murders) in Scotland in the 1970’s then pardoned following allegations unsubstantiated against the investigating West Lothian detectives. Another man was then put on trial, namely Waddell and acquitted as he alleged Meehan had never been acquitted only pardoned, but in fact convicted of this crime of which he was accused.
The English and Welsh police do not waste their time on charades and wild goose chases. A young boy was murdered in cold blood in Staffordshire in our land in 1978, and they did the job they know so well. The rest is legal chronicle. A way was found to overturn these convictions a long time after sentence was passed. There will be no recrimination and these convictions had been properly defended. There were several unsuccessful appeals before 1997 when the Appellants succeeded at the last attempt.
4. The Lessons of the Bridgewater Murder Case
If you do not “reasonably” trust your husband or wife you will find yourself doubting your very own heart and soul. If you do trust your judgement and your spouse’s worth, put your money where your mouth is and speak up for that trust and belief. The Jury did in the Carl Bridgewater case and the trial Judge entirely endorsed their verdicts. The Court of Appeal overturned the convictions many years after, but the traces of guilt were not obliterated. It was hard work for the Jury to convict, but convict they did in accordance with the Judge’s summing-up. What about the Death Penalty? Each case must be put to rest. We cannot have this endless wrangling to wear down our Criminal Appeal Judges by the drip drip of media inspired comment. I am afraid we are crying out loud for the discretionary Death Sentence to return to England. Molloy and Michael Hickey would have been spared in 1979 on conviction. James Robinson and Vincent Hickey denied their complicity in the murder and showed no remorse at any time. Their denials proved nothing save their lack of sorrow. They would correctly have gone to the gallows in their guilt for murdering a defenceless 13 year old boy, a crime to which they would never admit and confess as we well know. The trial Judge under my regime of a discretionary death sentence would have been duty bound in morality to pass the death sentence on these two last mentioned convicted murderers in 1979. He would also have been so justified in his discretion as the history of the case from 1978 to now shows.
Some people create fuss. The Death Sentence creates peace. How? These murder convicts – James Robinson and Vincent Hickey – would have gone to their deaths by hanging and the mercy of the Lord in the time honoured words. That is the regime I seek to bring about. I leave my readers in no doubt.
Our media controllers would be advised to search their conscience in truth. We have great liberty, but if we do not exercise our freedoms responsibly, as we have been taught, we put those liberties in jeopardy. The police are in the front line of defending our freedom and Her Majesty’s Judges are the second line of defence. I for one will always guard the reputation of our English and Welsh police and the independence of our English and Welsh High Court Bench with the Crown Court Judges of those Courts.
Our hard won record for fairness in criminal justice has wrongly been impugned in this Carl Bridgewater case. We will not let those detractors prevail. The truth will out as it always does. Good men will not stand by. Justice will be the victor as always!