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Liverpool fan Michael Shields 'can seek British Government pardon'

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Liverpool fan Michael Shields 'can seek British Government pardon'

Post by THE BOSS on Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:42 pm

Liverpool football fan Michael Shields can be pardoned by the British Government over the attempted murder of a Bulgarian barman, two High Court judges have ruled.



The judges said Justice Secretary Jack Straw did have the "power and jurisdiction" to exercise the ancient "royal prerogative of mercy" in the case of Shields, who was convicted in Bulgaria but transferred to a UK prison to finish his sentence.
But the judges also ruled that it was for Mr Straw alone - and not the courts - to decide how to exercise that power.
The ruling means Shields does not have an automatic right to his freedom.
Shields, now 22, has already served three years of a 10-year sentence for the attempted murder of a barman at the Big Ben diner in Varna, Bulgaria, in 2005.
MPs, clergymen, Liverpool FC players and many others have backed the call to free him on the basis that he is innocent.
His conviction was based solely on identification evidence with no supporting testimony and has been described by Fair Trials Abroad as a "blatant miscarriage of justice."
In the meantime, another football fan confessed to the attack following Michael's denial that he was even there. Graham Sankey later retracted his confession.
Mr Straw's legal team argued at a recent High Court hearing in London that there was no jurisdiction to grant Shields a free pardon.
They warned that, if the Justice Secretary did intervene, the move could be seen as criticism of the foreign court that found Shields guilty.
But Justice May and Mr Justice Maddison, sitting in London, said: "We declare that he does have such power and jurisdiction."
The judges stressed that it was not for the court to say "whether or how that power may be exercised".
Shields was initially jailed for 15 years in Bulgaria, but was transferred to the UK in 2006.
He is serving the remainder of his sentence, which was cut to 10 years on appeal in Bulgaria, at HMP Haverigg in Cumbria and has always vehemently maintained his innocence,
In a statement, Justice Secretary Jack Straw said: "I have carefully considered the judgment of the High Court and will not be appealing it.
"As the judgment makes clear, the issue the court was considering was a purely legal one - whether I had been correct in taking the view that I had no power to consider a pardon in this case, on the basis that only the Bulgarian authorities could reconsider the case.
"The court was not asked whether or not Michael Shields was innocent or guilty and it does not come to a view on that, nor does it order a grant of a pardon. Rather, the court concluded that it is 'open to the Secretary of State to entertain a request to exercise the royal prerogative'.
"In light of the criteria which the court then set out, I am today establishing a process under which I will examine the case to the extent that the court has indicated that I am able to do so. I intend to appoint senior counsel to advise me on the next steps.
"I will ensure this process is undertaken as quickly as possible, and can assure Michael Shields and his family that I will reach a decision on whether to recommend granting a pardon as swiftly as is possible. While recognising the frustration of Michael Shields' family and his campaign team, I am also duty bound to work within the law.
"I am also considering the wider consequences of this judgment on other cases, including its implications for British prisoners abroad."
Following the news, the prisoner's father Michael senior said his son was "not in the best of health" but their dream "has nearly come true" with him possibly being freed.
He said: "Michael was a bit emotional when he found out.
"It has taken its toll on Michael, he is not in the best of health or the best of spirits.
"He was only 18 when he went to Bulgaria, he's 22 now.
"I'm sure he is very happy with this decision and basically we just need to get him home as soon as possible now."
Shield's mother Marie said: "I am very hopeful he will be home for Christmas.
"All I want to see is my innocent son back home with his two sisters and our grandchildren and have a big Christmas day.
"All the Christmases without Michael have obviously not been the same.
"It has been so hard for us all as a family.
"Even for his friends and campaigners, I can't explain the pain we've been through because it's been three-and-a-half years.
"I am just looking forward to Mr Straw getting Michael home as quickly as possible.
"I can't wait for the day we see him walking up the stairs into the house."

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