Thursday, 25 June 2009

Time to free Michael Shields

Michael Savage has an excellent piece in The Independent on the dilemma facing Jack Straw regarding the decision about whether or not to free Michael Shields, the Liverpool fan wrongly convicted of killing a Bulgarian bar-tender with a paving slab in 2005. Most Liverpool fans still dream of that night on May 25th 2005 when Liverpool overturned a 3-0 deficit to lift the Champions League trophy for the fifth time. For Michael Shields, who maintains that he was in bed at the time of the attack, it was the beginning of a four year nightmare.

The dilemma for Jack Straw, as dissected by Savage, is whether to free Shields and risk others not being extradited to Britain as we may be seen as a soft option or to keep him incarcerated until he has served the remainder of his 10 year prison sentence. The High Court already ruled that the Lord Chancellor does indeed have the power to issue a pardon in December of last year. So it's in Mr Straw's hands.

I just don't see how the wider impact of the decision can justify keeping an innocent man in prison. It is simply wrong. The fact that significant new evidence has come to light- including eye witness statements and Shields has taken a lie detector test also- provides the cover to make the decision. He would not be disrespecting the Bulgarian legal system by overturning its decision. Goodness me, our legal system gets it wrong also- just ask Colin Stagg or Barry Bulsara. Any diplomatic fall-out could be managed. Even if it could not, it is still no reason not to acquit Michael Shields.

This one is a simple case of doing the right thing. Michael Shields will be acquitted if there is any justice in the decision.

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