Six defiant defendants walked free Thursday after 16 years in prison when the Court of Appeal reversed their convictions for the Irish Republican Army's bloodiest bombings in England.
"Justice! I don't think the people in there have got the intelligence nor the honesty to spell the word, never mind dispense it," shouted Patrick Hill, one of the six, after his release. "They're rotten!"The six men, jubilant but angry, emerged to greet supporters and their families massed outside the Old Bailey courthouse. It was a delirious scene, with defendants taking turns at microphones, then turning to embrace tearful wives and daughters and to shake hands with supporters.
Their freedom had come on the ninth day of a court hearing into their appeals.
"In the light of fresh evidence which has become available since the last hearing in this court your appeal will be allowed, and you will be free to go as soon as the usual formalities have been discharged," Lord Justice Lloyd announced.
The announcement was greeted with cheers and applause in the courtroom. Lloyd said the court would announce the reasons for the decision later.
Minutes after the court decision, Home Secretary Kenneth Baker, the Cabinet official responsible for law enforcement,
announced the appointment of a Royal Commission to review criminal procedures, including the use of scientific evidence, "to minimize as far as possible the likelihood of such events happening again."
It was the second time in two years that the Court of Appeal freed people convicted of IRA bombings during the mid-1970s. The government has admitted that the convictions of seven other people are faulty.
The three cases strained relations between the British and Irish governments.
The six men were arrested shortly after bombs planted in two pubs killed 21 people and injured 162 others in Birmingham on Nov. 21, 1974, the deadliest attack ever mounted by the IRA in England.