Saturday, 30 June 2012

Cause célèbre

A day for rumination, I heard on the radio about a pig from the past. There has been over the years a number of "cause célèbrewhich involved numbers. Covering all sorts of issues that from time to time grabbed the publics imagination.

For instance the number two, so to speak. Do you remember the "Tamworth Two" a pair of pigs who escaped while being unloaded from a lorry at an abattoir in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in January 1998. Nicknamed by the press as Butch and Sundance, the brother and sister pigs were on the run for more than a week and the search for them generated huge public interest and media attention. The two pigs escaped by squeezing through a fence, then swimming across the River Avon and escaping into nearby gardens. 

Media interest in the escaped pigs soared across the country. The "Tamworth Two" were estimated to be worth between £40-50 each, Their owner said that he still intended to send the pair to slaughter should they be recaptured. The owner was then offered large a sum of money by the Daily Mail and animal lovers to save them from the dinner table. Eventually, the Daily Mail newspaper bought the pigs. The pair went on to live out their lives at the Rare Breeds Centre, an animal sanctuary near Ashford in Kent. 

The animal loving British public once again took the under-dog to their hearts, or in this instance the under-pig. In the process briefly made them the most famous fugitives in the world. It also shows how contrary human beings are in their relationship with animals. How we are only too happy to tuck in to a pork chop, but are outraged when others want to capture and kill a couple of pigs that have stolen our heart.

Another cause célèbre was the injustice of the "Birmingham Six." This was at a time when there was a great deal of unrest in Northern Ireland. The unrest spread to the British mainland. There was a campaign of terror bombings in November 1974. Six men were eventually arrested and all six happend to live in Birmingham. The men had been subject to a Special Branch stop and search. While the search was in progress the police were informed of the Birmingham bombings. The six men were eventually charged with murder and conspiracy to cause explosions. 

The trial began June 1975 at the Crown Court sitting at Lancaster Castle. Forensic scientist Dr Frank Skuse used positive Griess test results to claim that two of the people had handled explosives. Skuse's claim that he was 99% certain that the two had explosives traces on their hands. The jury found the six men guilty of murder. They were sentenced to imprisonment for life.
In 1991 their second appeal against conviction was allowed. brought about by evidence of the police both fabricating and suppressing evidence, The Court of Appeal stated that "Dr. Skuse" was wrong and demonstrably wrong, judged even by the state of forensic science in 1974. Superintendent George Reade and two other police officers were charged with perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice but unsurprisingly were never prosecuted.

The "Guildford Four" and the "Maguire Seven" were two sets of people whose convictions in English courts for the Guildford pub bombings in the 1970s were eventually quashed. The Guildford Four were convicted of bombings carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the Maguire Seven were convicted of handling explosives found during the investigation into the bombings. Both groups' convictions were declared "unsafe and unsatisfactory" and reversed after they had served time in prison.

The "Cardiff Three" were convicted of the murder of Lynette White, a white prostitute who was murdered in Wales, Cardiff in the early hours of February 14, 1988. At the time of the murder witnesses saw a white man covered in bloodstains near the scene in the early hours of that morning. In addition the police had strong evidence to suggest a white paedophile with a string of convictions for violent sexual assault was responsible. They choose to ignore that evidence.

The "Newham Eight" were eight youths were arrested and charged in September 1982 when fighting took place in Newham, East London, between a group of Asian youths and three police officers in plain clothes. Following a number of racist attacks at the Little Ilford school, a number of Asians had banded together to protect themselves and their fellow pupils from further assault. Police officers called out to an incident tried to arrest a youth who was carrying a hockey stick. Others, believing they were being attacked by racists, went to his aid.


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