21 June 2012

Last UK death sentence quashed

William Holden (NTBCW the American actor of the same name) is one of those curiosities I thought of looking into but never got around to.

While Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans have gone down in history as the last persons to be executed in the UK - on 13 August 1964 - they were by no means the last persons in the UK to be handed a death sentence. That dubious honour goes to Liam (William) Holden who was sentenced to death in Northern Ireland in 1973 for the murder of a soldier. His death sentence was commuted and the death penalty was finally abolished in July of the same year.

The  Holden case was  one of many stories which I always wanted to look into but never got around to. However, his case made the news today.

Today's Independent trports that Holden's original sentece has been quashed. Holden was just 19 when he confessed to the murder of Paratrooper Frank Bell (who was just 18 when he was killed).
 He was sentenced to death but the sentence was was commuted to life in prison by then Northern Ireland Secretary William Whitelaw and he served 17 years behind bars before being released on licence in 1989

Mr Holden says he confessed under duress after being held by members of the Parachute Regiment for nearly six hours who subjected him to water torture, hooded him and had a gun put to his head.
 He claimed that he was pinned to the floor by six men, a thick towel was held over his face and soldiers started pouring water on it. “What the soldiers did to me...water torture, hooding, putting the gun to my head, no one will ever get a real feeling of what it is like, it is like a slow drowning sensation.”
The Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case to the court of appeal in Ireland in 2009 because of concerns about the reliability of his confession. Detailed reasons for the referral were included in an annex to the report which was not given to Mr Holden or his defence team. No paratrooper has been publicly named as being involved.
Holden said that he was grateful that the decision was a quashing of a conviction rather than a posthumous pardon. “I am delighted after 40 years that the conviction has been quashed, I am just sorry the parents are not alive to witness it,” 
Torture someone and you will not get the right answers, just the ones you want to hear. Torturers do not care whether the person at the receiving end of their actions tend not to care whether they have the right person, just a person who gives the correct answer. It is quite right and proper that Holden's sentence has been quashed.


farmland investment in Europe said...

Sickening - perhaps that's where Bush II got the idea for waterboarding from.

jams o donnell said...

It's not a new concept. People have been doing similar for a long time