Book exposes risks of the death penalty

Michael O'Connell book
Michael O'Connell book
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BOOK — ‘Where Lies The Truth?’, Michael O’Connell, published by Country Books

THIS new book by retired lawyer Michael O’Connell, formerly of Hucknall, provides the strongest possible argument against bringing back capital punishment.

For it focuses on a truly shocking miscarriage of justice, leading to the execution of an innocent man.

George Kelly was hanged in March 1950 for the murders of two men who were shot dead at the Cameo cinema in Liverpool.

The conviction was quashed 53 years later when the case was sent back to the appeal court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

The turning point came with the discovery of a statement which attributed the killings to someone else. The book claims that a senior police officer, Det Chief Insp Herbert Richard Balmer, was shown to have suppressed the crucial evidence.

The same officer also investigated the dreadful murder of a 52-year-old widow, Beatrice Rimmer, in the same part of Liverpool. This case led to two men, Edward Devlin and Alfred Burns, being executed in April 1952.

The jury which convicted the pair did not accept their alibi defence but preferred to believe the evidence of a career criminal and two young women, one of whom had earlier claimed that an incriminating statement she made against Devlin was not true.

The author poses the question of possible collusion which led to the convictions of Devlin and Burns. He strongly argues that the CCRC should send this case back to the appeal court as well.

He says: “That is the whole purpose of my book — and public awareness may help towards achieving this objective.”

As the title suggests, the publication is all about the author’s search for the truth in the Devlin/Burns case. His meticulous analysis of the facts not only make for an absorbing read but also represents a key contribution to the debate on whether the death penalty should be restored in the UK.

Mr O’Connell, who now lives in Kimberley, says: “I totally oppose imposition of the death penalty in cases of homicide. I do so on the simple ground that I do not respect the integrity of the criminal justice system to do justice.”

Mr O’Connell stresses, however, that his criticism of police in the book does not apply to present-day serving officers. He says: “They often risk their safety and sometimes even their lives in the cause of criminal justice, seeking to protect us all. Society owes them a great debt.”

n COUNTRY Books has agreed to sell a copy of the book, as a special offer, to the first 20 Dispatch readers who contact them, for £9 a copy (instead of the cover price of £12.99), post and packaging free, within 28 days. The company’s address is Courtyard Cottage, Little Longstone, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 INN. The telephone number is 01629 640670 and the e-mail address is dickrichardson@country-books.co.uk