Of course, they didn't do it, you know
25 March 1997
20 December 1999
21 April 2005
30 May 1995
1 July 1997
11 July 1995
Whenever I am in danger of getting carried away by the euphoria that surrounds the release of innocent people, I turn either to the leader column of The Sun or the correspondence columns of The Daily Telegraph.
Not that I have any objection to being denounced in The Sun. True, it does generate a certain amount of hate mail from some of the sick people who read that publication, but I have always worked on the basis that it is better to be denounced than ignored.
My favourite denunciations ("Loony MP backs bomb gang", "Mr Odious", "Twenty things you didn't know about Crackpot Chris") are hanging on the wall of my study.
In any case The Sun has been rather quiet of late, having paid out spectacular libel damages (about as much as the British state has paid in compensation) to some of those whose convictions have been quashed.
The Daily Telegraph is more interesting. Despite occasional lapses, its reporting has usually been straightforward. Even its comment columns have for the most part been sensible. Many of its readers, however, taken a different view.
This was Mr M P Davis of Hove three days after the three men wrongly convicted of killing Carl Bridgewater walked out of the front door of the High Court: "In setting free the 'Bridgewater Three', the Appeal Court did not say they are innocent merely because their conviction is unsafe... I suggest that before there is any question of compensating them for their 18 years in prison, they be required to establish their innocence by suing for compensation in the civil courts."
Disgusted of Hove, I suspect, speaks for a fair slice of Middle England. Similar sentiments may no doubt be heard in saloon bars and freemasons lodges the length and breadth of the land.
They can also be heard wherever two or three senior lawyers are gathered together. I have lost count of the number of times I have been approached by people who say, "I dined with Lord Justice so-and-so last night and you should hear what he is saying about the Birmingham six."
Among the police the delusion is almost total. It is shared even by the otherwise thoughtful, educated officers of the sort one increasingly finds in senior positions. Even those prepared to talk frankly about "noble cause corruption" and "canteen culture" often flatly refuse to face up to the fact that the wrong people were put away for all the big IRA bombings of the 1970s.
When such people are challenged as to the basis for their certainty, it is usually apparent that they have none. They have seen none of the television documentaries, read none of the books. They possess only an inner certainty born of moving in circles where their views are never seriously challenged.
At this late hour I am not going to waste space trying to convince readers of The Lawyer that the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings are entirely innocent. Suffice to say - and I have investigated the matter very carefully - they were not members of the IRA, they were not members of Sinn Fein and they were not involved in making or planting the pub bombs, or any others.
If I thought for one moment that they had been, I would not have wasted my time on them.
As for the real perpetrators, they are well known to the powers that be. They are also alive and well and living in Ireland.
As for those who wish to go on believing the mythology, don't let me stand in your way. Anyone interested in the facts, however, can read the book.
Chris Mullin is the MP for Sunderland South. The fifth and final edition of his book on the Birmingham pub bombings case, Error of Judgement, is published this month by Poolbeg, price £9.99.