Thursday, July 02, 2009

Straw Washes His Hands Of Michael Shields

While government ministers continue to drag their feet over the release of the full, unedited documents about Hillsborough, it seems that Whitehall is also happy to slam the door shut on Michael Shields' hopes of a full pardon ( ):
"A statement issued by the ministry of justice said:'Following a detailed and careful consideration of all the relevant evidence the justice secretary, Jack Straw, has made a provisional decision that the application for a free pardon from Mr Michael Shields should be refused.'
The ministry said Straw made his decision in accordance with a high court judgment in 2008 which indicated that, in order to grant a free pardon, he would have to be satisfied that Shields was 'morally and technically innocent'.
"To reach this conclusion the following factors had to be taken into consideration: the Bulgarian courts' judgments as they stood, fresh evidence the Bulgarian courts did not consider, and the evidence they did and their judgment on it.
"This was a high test, the ministry said, and Straw provisionally concluded that on the evidence it had not been met."
Cowering behind the official verbiage is a so-called justice secretary who has decided to turn his face against the growing body of evidence that Michael Shields was not involved in any way with the attack on Bulgarian waiter Martin Georgiev in 2005. I'm no lawyer, but it's clear that hiding behind hastily-assembled, self-serving caveats such as "morally and technically innocent" both buys Straw time to cover his back & allows him to wash his hands of what must have been an awfully inconvenient business for him.
Bulgaria is one of the newer members of the EU & it's not unduly cynical to calculate that Straw's decision owes more to realpolitik than a fresh appraisal of the evidence.
A well-known criminal thug who has long been on the radar of Merseyside police due to a string of violent offences, Graham Sankey, admitted that he was Martin Georgiev's assailant, but later retracted his confession. In addition, Mr Georgiev formally identified Michael Shields when he was still suffering the effects of concussion from the assault.
So far, the campaign website ( ) hasn't been updated. Michael's family have 28 days to appeal against Straw's decision.

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