Michael Mansfield packs Picture House

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Michael Mansfield

Michael Mansfield QC appeared in Hebden Bridge at the Picture House yesterday evening to a packed audience which included Ann Scargill and renowned local lawyers, Campbell Malone and John Pickering. Originally booked to appear during the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, the event had to be rearranged because Michael is spending some time working at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

Alluding to recent tragic events in London, Mr Mansfield argued that civil rights are most needed at the time of the biggest threats.

Michael Mansfield made his name fighting cases no one else would touch including The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Stephen Lawrence, the Angry Brigade,  the Orgreave miners and the Omagh bombings. Hated by much of the tabloid press, his detractors cite his practice of often turning up to court by bike, his vegetarianism, his habit of employing black and women juniors and of course his socialism - "champagne socialism" as it is unfailingly called.

He is an example of someone who has moved to the left rather than the right during his life. He came from a Tory background and started to be radicalised during his time at Keele University. He used to be a drummer in a rock group "Mindless Pleasures" and enjoys carpentry.

You may have seen him portrayed by Jeremy Clyde in Tricycle Theatre's "The Colour of Justice: Stephen Lawrence Inquiry" when it came to West Yorkshire Playhouse.  

The first half of the evening was largely devoted to how much of his work has been challenging accepted canons of forensic science. He gave the example of handwriting recognition in the Angry Brigade trial. Until then, it had been the practice for both the prosecution and the defence to find their competing experts. His approach was to find several experts and not to tell them any details. The consequence was that there was a complete lack of agreement in the findings. He went on to describe how he has even successfully challenged fingerprint analysis and supposed residues from explosives.

He talked a great deal about the reliability of "scientific evidence", citing Prof. Roy Meadows use of statistics in wrongly convicting several mothers whose babies died from cot deaths.

During the second half, he invited question from the audience. And talked about the choices soldiers still have when they go to war, his belief that the Jill Dando and Lockerbie killers are still at large, the importance of comprehensive education in overcoming religious bigotry and how the International Criminal Court should look at the crimes and misdemenours of the G8 countries as well as the smaller ones.

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