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Natalie Severn
12-11-2012, 10:13 AM
In his long plea for clemency to Butler,the then Home Secretary, to exercise the Prerogative of Mercy Sherrard presented the issue of identity as the cornerstone of the case-viz:

'not only clearly on the face of the evidence, but also from the summing up of the learned judge,Mr Justice Gormon and from the judgement of the court of criminal appeal.All the other evidence in the case was, you may feel, subsidiary to the issue of identity and all of it was either inconclusive or equivocal.
Imagine if you will ,that no one had been able positively to identify Hanratty:there would have been no case against him and all the other factors relied upon would have been aimless corks on a storm-tossed sea."

Sherrard continues:

" There is no class of evidence more liable to fall victim to the frailties of human judgment than that relating to identity...................the witness, honest but mistaken,is a problem indeed and the judgement of juries is as problematical as the problem itself "


Gereth Peirce , the highly respected human rights lawyer, appears to agree wholeheartedly with Michael Sherrard's view on the frailties of human judgement in this regard ,clearly stating her view expressed on page 48 of 'Dispatches from the Dark Side-on torture and the death of justice' Verso publications 2009 :

"The first description is vital.If a witness makes a positive identification of one individual,no subsequent identification is permissible.Equivocation and uncertainty are not enough"


Not only did Valerie Storie 'hesitate' for almost 20 minutes before she 'identified Hanratty' but Valerie Storie had crucially made just such a 'positive identification' only a couple of weeks earlier of a totally innocent person ,Michael Clark, as the man who was her rapist and assailant and Michael Gregsten's killer.

In today's courts Valerie Storie's evidence would therefore be impermissible.

Although Michael Sherrard goes on to plead with the Home Secretary to consider a number of other aspects of the case,including the statements of several of the late Rhyl witnesses ,he ends his plea by requesting him to "weigh very carefully in the balance" the evidence of Mrs Dinwoodie "who was agreed by everyone to be honest and respectable."

Sherrard concludes his plea thus : ' I earnestly ask you to recommend that the sentence of death under which Hanratty lies be not carried out.'

OneRound
12-11-2012, 11:20 AM
Hi Natalie - interesting and informative post, thanks.

Yet again Sherrard found himself in a difficult position. To be fair, Butler had little option other than to turn down Sherrard's plea even if he had wanted to do so.

Although you do not solely blame the jury, you believe they delivered the wrong verdict and Hanratty was innocent. Although I have no great faith in Hanratty's innocence, I believe parts of the trial and the process leading up to it were flawed so that there were grounds (had they been known) for overturning the conviction at the original appeal in early 1962.

As Home Secretary considering the plea on Hanratty's behalf for mercy, Butler could not allow himself the luxury of such beliefs. Evidential and technical matters had already been considered at the orginal appeal against conviction and dismissed. Sherrard did the very best he could in his letter to Butler but there was really no way that Butler could accede to Sherrard's request unless he (Butler) were to say that the jury and/or the appeal court were wrong. Without new evidence being presented to him (and it wasn't, notwithstanding the eloquence of Sherrard), Butler had to accept the appeal court's judgment as correct.

The only way Butler or any Home Secretary could have granted clemency would have been if mitigating circumstances had been presented in respect of the convicted person's (limited) involvement in the crime and/or his personal character. Such circumstances had been understandably raised on Derek Bentley's behalf to Maxwell Fyfe a decade earlier but still with the end result of the teenager going to the gallows.

With Hanratty continuing to deny any involvement, Sherrard could only raise again doubts as to the safety of the jury's verdict. With the appeal court already having rejected that possibility and Hanratty convicted of one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century, I do not feel we can blame Butler for writing on Hanratty's file, ''The law must take its course.''

Natalie Severn
12-11-2012, 12:19 PM
Thankyou One Round.Yes, I can see your reasoning here .However I would add that it was widely believed in legal circles at least,that the main reason for Butler turning down the plea for clemency , came to light through the lawyer ,Louis Blom-Cooper, who wrote a book on the case entitled , 'The A6 Murder-The Semblance of Truth' .
It concerned the Rules of Hearsay-evidence which was therefore inadmissable in court and which had come originally via the remand prisoner prosecution witness ,Roy Langdale .Eatwell,his accompanying prison officer , had overheard a conversation between Langdale and another prisoner .This conversation he had overheard was however ,fully available to the Home Secretary in March 1962 although it had not been available to the court at the trial.
Butler ,according to Blom- Cooper had considered this 'inadmissible mystery evidence' - of 'vital' importance.However,tragically for Hanratty , if this was indeed the main reason clemency was rejected ,the details, far from being details 'which only Hanratty could have known' had been known to readers of national newspapers and listener's to the radio since August 26th.Paul Foot exposed the truth of this matter in his book citing the Daily Herald of August 26th as an example viz "He,[Supt Acott] identified the spot at Dorney Reach,near Taplow Bucks,where the gunman forced his way into the car-a cornfield gateway"
Nontheless, Butler understood that only the real murderer could have known the hold up took place in a cornfield [that Langdale was heard relating to another prisoner allegedly from Hanratty and that only the murderer could have known about.
It is reported that when Louis Blom -Cooper learnt of this and certain other matters Foot brought to light in his 1971 book ,he revised his opinion on a number of matters to do with the evidence ,including the verdict.

btw-it remained the view of Michael Sherrard that the principal reason Hanratty was found guilty by the jury was down to Valerie Storie's identification-this can clearly be seen in his introductory paragraph of the Plea for Clemency an identification he considered to be deeply flawed and 'the cornerstone of the case'.
Incidently Blom-Cooper is absolutely brilliant on both the deep flaws of the 'identification evidence' and the 'movable roadworks'

EddieX
12-12-2012, 08:05 AM
With Hanratty continuing to deny any involvement, Sherrard could only raise again doubts as to the safety of the jury's verdict. With the appeal court already having rejected that possibility and Hanratty convicted of one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century, I do not feel we can blame Butler for writing on Hanratty's file, ''The law must take its course.''

I agree. Hanratty's crime was as nasty and vicious as crimes of murder come with no mitigating features and plenty of aggravating ones. The Home Secretary was right to confirm the death sentence and to advise Her Majesty that the prerogative of mercy should not be exercised.

Limehouse
12-15-2012, 05:54 PM
I agree. Hanratty's crime was as nasty and vicious as crimes of murder come with no mitigating features and plenty of aggravating ones. The Home Secretary was right to confirm the death sentence and to advise Her Majesty that the prerogative of mercy should not be exercised.

You know, Eddie, whenever I read your posts lately I get a strange sense of deja vu.

caz
12-19-2012, 11:30 AM
Sherrard continues:

" There is no class of evidence more liable to fall victim to the frailties of human judgment than that relating to identity...................the witness, honest but mistaken,is a problem indeed and the judgement of juries is as problematical as the problem itself "

Hi Nats,

I appreciate that you still feel this applies to Valerie, despite the DNA results which (disappointingly and unexpectedly for all Hanratty supporters) totally backed up her identification of the prime suspect in the second line-up. Her failure to pick out the prime suspect in the first line-up quite rightly eliminated Alphon from further suspicion, so it's not all bad.

But since 2002, the tables have turned and Sherrard's warning about 'honest but mistaken' witnesses needs to be applied to the people of Liverpool and Rhyl, whose witness testimony remains 'a problem indeed'. One can hardly argue that Valerie's identification of Hanratty, as the man who raped her after hours in that little car with her, was mistaken (especially given the lack of any suspect DNA on her underwear apart from Hanratty's), then argue in the next breath that the Liverpool and Rhyl witnesses (mostly strangers who claimed, many months or even years after the event, to have seen or spoken briefly to the man in the only photo they were shown) cannot have been similarly mistaken.


In today's courts Valerie Storie's evidence would therefore be impermissible.


And the guilty man would be free to rape and murder again, whoever he was. At least that doesn't appear to have been the case with the A6 gunman. He would have been free to do it again if they had hanged the wrong man.

Love,

Caz
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