Guildford Four and Maguire Seven Case

Scope and Content

Subseries contains files relating to the related cases of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven. Includes correspondence, press cuttings, copy court papers, reports, and audio visual recordings.

Background on the cases of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven

In the months before the Birmingham Bombings [see U DMU/5/1], a similar IRA campaign was underway in and around Greater London. This led to the bombings of two pubs in Guildford ('The Horse and Groom' and 'The Seven Stars') on 5th October 1974 and a pub in Woolwich ('The King's Arms') on 7th November 1974. Seven people were killed. The police arrested Paul Hill who confessed and named in his confession the other three people who, along with Hill, would come to be known as the Guildford Four: Gerry Conlon, Carol Richardson and Patrick Armstrong. In October 1975 all four defendants were found guilty, and the three men were given life imprisonment sentences and Richardson (who was 17 at this time) was detained at her majesty's pleasure. Hill's statement had also mentioned his Aunt and Uncle, Annie and Patrick Maguire. On this basis the Police raided their house in Harlesden and arrested not only the Maguires but also their two children, Annie's brother Sean Smyth, Guiseppe Conlon (Gerry Conlon's father) and the Maguire's neighbour, Patrick O'Neill. The only evidence against them was based on chemical swabs taken from their hands, the results of which were subsequently destroyed. All seven were found guilty and given prison sentences ranging from 4 to 14 years. Guiseppe Conlon would die of tuberculosis while in prison. Then, in December 1975 an IRA Active Service Unit were arrested at Balcombe Street, Marylebone, after a six-day police 'siege'. These men had, for more than a year, been carrying out the bombing campaign around Greater London. They claimed to have been responsible for the Guildford and Woolwich bombings and gave detailed accounts of how they had been carried out. The charges against them never included these offences; it subsequently emerged that the evidence against them had been edited to avoid having to charge them with the offences for which four people had already been convicted. Nevertheless, the statements given by the Balcome Street IRA were considered to be sufficient evidence to hold an appeal into the convictions of the Guildford Four opened at the Old Bailey on 10th October 1977. Hill and Conlon had long maintained that their confessions were false and had been obtained by police brutality and threats, while Armstrong and Richardson had been interviewed while suffering from amphetamine withdrawal. The Judges at the Old Bailey denied leave to an appeal or a re-trial. A second appeal in 1989 was successfully, the Four's convictions were declared unsafe and were quashed on the afternoon of 19 October 1989.

Previous Ref: U DMU/2

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Related Material

See DCL/732/1 and DCL/849/1, and DMP/44, 47-49, 51, 64-67, 106-108 and 111-112


  • McKee, Grant and Franey, Ros 'Timebomb: Irish Bombers, English Justice and the Guildford Four' (Bloomsbury, 1998)
  • Kee, Robert 'Trial and Error: the Maguires, the Guildford Pub Bombings and British Justice' (Hamish Hamilton, 1986)
  • Bennett, Ronan 'Double Jeopardy: The Retrial of the Guildford Four' (Penguin, )