This page is dedicated to Derek Bentley, who was hanged on 28 January 1953 for a murder he did not commit. Here is his story.
Bentley, completely unarmed and while being held by a policeman after an abortive break-in, is alleged to have called out to his accomplice "Let him have it, Chris". After a while, Chris Craig shot and killed a policeman. 16-year-old Craig was jailed - 19-year-old Bentley was hanged. The story has generated several books, a film and even some songs. It took 16619 days from Derek's death, but he has, at long last, been pardoned (see my view of the story).
12 May 1999 - the Home Secretary has decided to give compensation to the Bentley family, after an earlier request (13 April) had been denied (BBC and Yahoo). He had said that the mistakes of the trial judge did not fall within the allowed reasons for awarding compensation. He had also refused to invoke the 'particular circumstances' rule which would have allowed compensation. A recent case came to a different conclusion. There are reports of the earlier rejection from Yahoo, the Independent, the BBC and the Mirror. The family had asked the Home secretary to reconsider on 21 April (BBC).
28 January 1999 - a memorial service was held today in Southwark Cathedral to mark the 46th anniversary of Derek's death. Maria Dingwall-Bentley was joined by Christopher Eccleston and Tom Courtney. The story did not feature much in the news, though it was covered by the BBC.
Derek Pardoned! 30 July 1998
Today, 30 July 1998, the court of appeal overthrew Derek's original conviction (full ruling). It's taken 46 years of bullying and cajoling the Home Office to get this far, but I think that the Bentley family's struggle has been worth it. You can follow stories from BBC news via the lead story here, and the Guardian had this as its main story. The Telegraph had three articles (registration required, but free) - an overall view, one about PC Bob Jaggs and one severley critical of Lord Goddard.
22 July 1998 - Derek Bentley's case has ended after three days at the Court of Appeal. The case was expected to last 5 days, and Derek's supporters are still hoping for a good result. Christopher Craig was expected to give evidence during the hearing, but the defence team decided not to call him. Judgment is expected some time next week. Here are some reports from the first day of the hearing, from the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph. The Independent reflects (devastatingly) on the effect of Lord Goddard on the case.
The Home Office was due to review the Bentley case in April 1997, with the strong possibility that the long overdue full pardon would have been granted. In a surprise move on 24 March 1997, the Home Office washed its hands of this case, along with others including the Hanratty "A6 Murder" case. It has passed them on to the newly-created Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) - this can only result in long delays and more muddle. The move has been seen by campaigners as a sop to the pro-hanging minority, and a desperate attempt by the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, to avoid having to make politically sensitive decisions in the run-up to the General Election. Once again, Derek Bentley is the victim of political opportunism and underhand dealing. Some supporters believe that at least Bentley will get a better hearing with this "independent" review body, particularly after the Labour landslide in the election.
On 6 November 1997 the Criminal Case Review Commission has passed the case of Derek Bentley back to the Appeal Court, with the expectation that the convicton for murder will be quashed, and the very real possibility of a full Royal Pardon. Maria Bentley-Dingwall, who has carried on the fight to clear Derek's name since her mother, Iris, died earlier this year, was overjoyed. The Press Association reports are here and here, along with reports from the Independent, the Times, and the Electronic Telegraph.
On 17th July 1997 Philip English, then 19, was freed from his life sentence for the murder of a policeman, four years previously. He had been arrested (for attacking Sergeant Bill Forth with pieces of fencing) and handcuffed, and was being held 100 yards away from and out of sight of his accomplice, Paul Weddle. Weddle then drew a knife and stabbed Sgt Forth to death. There are differences between this and the Bentley case - English was believed when he claimed that he didn't know that Weddle was armed, and it wasn't claimed that he shouted encouragement to Weddle to attack Sgt Forth. Despite these differences, supporters hope that this modification of the way 'joint enterprise' is viewed can but help the Bentley case. The actions of the CCRC are awaited with interest. See the news reports from The Independent (here), and from the Press Association (here, here and here).
On 21st October 1997 the Criminal Case Review Commission said that it was "close to completing its review" of the Bentley case. It was awaiting the final House of Lords judgement on the Philip English case (see below). This announcement came on the day that Sir Frederick Crawford, chairman of the CCRC, said that important new evidence had been uncovered which could clear the name of James Hanratty, hanged for the A6 murder.
The following links open up a new page with searches for Derek Bentley stories on the BBC, Yahoo, Google Groups (aka DejaNews), MSN, Google, Lycos and Wikipaedia.
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I know it doesn't have anything to do with Derek, but I needed somewhere to show some pictures from a recent holiday at the Cockleshell, Vensac.