The Guildford Pub Attacks

The Guildford Four
The Guildford Four

The Guidlford Pub Bombings were IRA-sponsored bombings on October 5, 1974. These two attacks caused the explosion of the Seven Stars Pub, as well as the Horse and Groom, in Guildford in the United Kingdom, killing 5 people and seriously injuring 65 others. The British forces did their utmost to track down the guilty parties, even if it meant accusing innocent people, and placing them in prison for more than 15 years for terrorism. It was the story of the biggest miscarriage of justice in the history of England.

History of the Guildford Pub Attacks

Searching for the culprits at all costs

October 5, 1974: when bombs explode in the two British Pubs, causing the death of young British people, the British people enter a period of hysteria. The attacks having been claimed by the IRA, the English police launched into an endless hunt to punish the culprits.

As the weeks went by, a wave of anti-Irish sentiment emerged throughout England, fuelling new tensions between London and Northern Ireland, which had already been invaded by British tanks and barbed wire.

In front of so much pressure from the opinion of the English people, the British forces questioned 4 young Irish followers of the hippie movement, known for some minor offences involving the occupation of squats, the carrying out of some thefts, as well as the use of drugs. These four Irish, nicknamed by the press “The Guidlford Four“, are known as :

  • Gerard “Gerry” Conlon, 21 years old
  • Paul Michael Hill, 21 years old
  • Patrick ” Paddy ” Armstrong
  • Carole Richardson, 18 years old

These 4 young men are being arrested under the Anti-Terrorism Prevention Act, which allows British forces to detain them for 7 days without charge. After a week of brutal interrogation involving violence, torture, assault and battery, and psychological intimidation, the police managed to “break” the four Irish men and extract a full confession from them.

A botched trial, and lives wasted.

During their trials, the defendants defend themselves by claiming that their confessions were wrongly extracted through torture, medical treatment, and direct threats against their families, but the court does not listen to them and sentences them to a sentence ranging from life imprisonment to 30 years in prison.

But the victims of this miscarriage of justice are not the only ones to suffer from the British justice system. Another group, the Maguire Seven (Maguire Seven), is also wrongly convicted and imprisoned in this case. These are no more and no less than members of Gerry Conlon’s family, including his father Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon, his aunt and his 14 and 16-year-old cousins, most of whom were convicted of making or possessing explosives. The following is an overview of their sentences, handed down at the trial of March 4, 1976:

  • Anne Maguire, 40 years old, sentenced to 14 years in prison
  • Patrick Maguire, husband of Anne, 42 years old, sentenced to 14 years in prison
  • Patrick Maguire, son of Anne and Patrick, 14 years old, sentenced to 4 years in prison
  • Vincent Maguire, son of Anne and Patrick, 17 years old, sentenced to 5 years in prison
  • William Smyth, brother of Anne Maguire, 37 years old, sentenced to 12 years in prison
  • Patrick O’Neill, a 35-year-old family friend, sentenced to 12 years in prison
  • Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon, brother-in-law of Anne Maguire, 52 years old, sentenced to 12 years in prison.

All of them serve their sentences and then get out of prison, except for Giuseppe Conlon, who shares the cell with his son Gerry Conlon, and who dies in January 1980 from lung disease.

The Victims request that the case be re-examined

Throughout their detentions, Gerry Conlon and Giusseppe Conlon have been trying to appeal and request a retrial. It was in 1989 that an investigator made a crucial discovery: he discovered that some of Patrick Armstrong’s interrogation reports had been altered. (Some passages were allegedly deleted, while others were summarily made up to fit the police scenario.) This element makes it possible to restart the appeal, and to reveal the imposture of the British police, and their gigantic miscarriage of justice.

The Guildford Four are immediately released, with the exception of Patrick Armstrong, who is released only a few days later, after also being cleared of a 1994 murder of a British soldier in Northern Ireland, of which he was also innocent.

Although the Guildford Four are finally found innocent, Gerry Conlon fights on his release to claim the innocence of his father Giuseppe, who died in prison.

Jim Sheridan, an Irish director and producer, directed the film, “In the Name of the Father”, with Daniel Day Lewis and Emma Thomson, inspired by the self-biography written by Gerry Conlon himself during his prison sentence.

So much more to discover...