Jack Straw and the Queen's Pardon That Could Set Michael Shields Free

Jamie WardSenior Analyst IDecember 18, 2008

The High Court has recently stated that Jack Straw is within his legal rights to pardon Michael Shields from his 10-year attempted murder sentence.

In April of this year, the Bulgarian judicial system affirmed that the United Kingdom had the power to grant a free pardon for the convicted football supporter—despite their original 15-year sentence.

However, at the time, the foreign secretary claimed it was not within his jurisdiction to grant a pardon and it was down to the courts to decide, but recently two high court judges have declared that the decision lies solely with Jack Straw.

They stated that the Justice Secretary did have the power under the 1983 Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons act to consider at least granting a pardon to Michael Shields based on the facts presented.

After this recent statement, Jack Straw has said he will appoint counsel to advise on the next steps available to him, including the implications for the hundreds of British prisoners currently in European Union prisons.

The High Courts were told there was evidence that the Bulgarian Justice Department had not considered and Fair Trials International have described the conviction as a blatant miscarriage of justice because it was based solely on identification with no supporting testimony.

Evidence that was deemed "not to prove anything and merely introduced doubt" came from one of the ten strong group of supporters present at the incident, Graham Sankey—previously imprisoned for late-night violence on a barman in Liverpool.

Sankey's lawyer faxed a statement to the Bulgarian courts that claimed full responsibility for the attack, but when the Courts asked for Sankey to appear in the country to make the official statement, he then retracted it.

Graham Sankey's evidence was also claimed to have had conflicting statements to those of the witnesses that were used to prosecute Micheal Shields and the two other men said to have been involved in the attack.

Nine eye witnesses, including the Bulgarian man attacked, claimed to have seen and identified Shields at the scene and as the man responsible for hitting the Bulgarian in the head with a large rock after he was kicked and punched to the ground.

However, two of Sankey's friends—who had also been charged with lesser convictions over the incident—admitted to a senior public figure that Sankey was in fact the guilty person and not Michael Shields.

The High Court was also told that Michael Shields had passed a polygraph lie-detector test successfully.

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has said that he hoped to reach a decision on whether to grant a pardon as swiftly as possible, with the family of Michael Shields hoping to see him home in time for Christmas.