The Four were Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Patrick (Paddy) Armstrong and Carole Richardson. who were wrongly convicted in the United Kingdom in October 1975 for the Provisional IRA's Guildford pub bombing which killed five and injured hundreds of people, and were imprisoned for over 15 years.
There was never any evidence that the Four had been involved with the IRA - and they certainly did not "fit the bill" in terms of lifestyle. Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson lived in a squat and had involvement with drugs and petty crime.
At their trial the Guildford Four claimed they had been tortured by police until they signed a confession. After they were convicted of murder and recieved the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, the judge expressed regret the Four had not been charged with treason, which then still had a mandatory death penalty.
The Four tried to make an appeal under Section 17 of Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (later repealed) but were unsuccessful and in 1987 the Home Office issued a memorandum reconising that it was unlikely that the Four were terrorists but that this would not be sufficient evidence for appeal.
In 1989, a detective looking at the case found typed notes from Patrick Armstrong's police interviews which had been heavily edited. Deletions and additions had been made and the notes had been rearranged. These notes and their amendments were consistent with hand-written and typed notes presented at the trial, which suggested that the hand-written notes were made after the interviews had been conducted. The implication of this was that the police had manipulated the notes to fit with the case they wanted to present.
An appeal was granted on the basis of this new evidence in 1989. The Lord Chief Justice said the police had either;
- completely fabricated the typed notes, amending them to make them look more effective and then creating hand- written notes to give the appearance of contemporaneous notes; or
- had started off with contemporaneous notes, typed them up to make them more legible, amended them to make them read better and then converted them back to hand-written notes.
Either way, the police had lied, and the conclusion was if they had lied about this, the entire evidence was misleading and the Four were released.
Several family members of Gerry Conlon, including his father Giuseppe, his aunt and his 14- and 16-year-old cousins, were also imprisoned in the same case (mainly for explosives offences). Giuseppe Conlon died in prison.
See also: Birmingham Six.