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Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 184 Contents

John Witzenfeld


Trial and error


From Socialist Review, No. 184, March 1995
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


On 23 December 1990 Patrick Quinn was arrested for being drunk and was taken to Hammersmith police station. In the early hours of 24December 1990, Christmas Eve, Malcolm Kennedy was also arrested for being drunk and taken to Hammersmith police station. He was put in a large cell. He did not notice any other person in the cell as he sat down on a bench and fell asleep. In his drunken sleep he heard shouting and banging. He was awoken by a commotion in the cell. Two men seemed to be fighting and one was clearly a policeman.

Kennedy tried to separate them and was struck on his forehead and knocked out. When he came to, he saw a man lying on the cell floor in front of him. He called out to him, ‘Are you all right?’ and tried to lift him up several times but the man did not respond at all.

That man turned out to be Patrick Quinn and he was dead.

These are the circumstances in which Malcolm Kennedy came to recharged and tried for the murder of Patrick Quinn. At the first trial he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He appealed against this to the Court of Appeal who quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial. During the course of the retrial new evidence suddenly appeared from the police and a second retrial was ordered. At the second retrial Kennedy was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to nine years imprisonment. A second appeal is still pending.

An excellent pamphlet raises severe doubts about Kennedy’s conviction and demonstrates how difficult it is for someone who accuses the police of committing a crime to obtain justice throughout legal system. No police officer was convicted of any crime in the Guilford Four and Birmingham Six cases, nor in the Tottenham and Cardiff Three cases.

What, you might ask, about the Police Complaints Authority, whose duty it is to investigate a complaint of violent police crime? As the pamphlet states:

‘If a complaint arises directly out of a criminal charge being brought, that complaint cannot be investigated until after the criminal case has been completed ... But police officers are obviously aware that if the complainant is convicted there is no basis for the complaint.

‘Victims of violent police crime who are charged with criminal offences have their complaints investigated immediately. Therefore it is in the interests of every police officer who commits a violent criminal offence to arrest and charge their victim.’

From the outset Malcolm Kennedy maintained his innocence for the murder of Patrick Quinn and blamed the police for it. The police charged Malcolm Kennedy with the murder. His complaint that the police were responsible could not be investigated by the Police Complaints Authority until long afterwards, when forensic evidence needed to be obtained immediately.

Despite this there were a number of difficulties with the case against Kennedy: Quinn’s injuries were severe multiple injuries, including a broken nose, to his head and face, and serious neck injuries, including a broken voice box. He also had 33 broken ribs and a crushed heart.

Kennedy had one injury to his head, not at all consistent with his having been involved in a drunken brawl.

Other bizarre factors were that virtually all the police officers on duty that night lost their notebooks. Witnesses were found with the help of World in Action which contradicted times given by the police and showed that certain police officers appeared to be aware of Quinn’s death earlier than the time the police stated his body was found.

One police officer did not give evidence at the second retrial because he was found to be suffering from episodic hypermania by the prosecution psychiatrist, although the defence psychiatrist maintained he could give evidence provided he took medication.

The pamphlet sets out the complex history of the case in the setting of Hackney Community Defence Association’s own research and statistics into cases of police violence in which they have been involved. In addition it deals with police treatment of drunks anyhow they are completely at the mercy of the police: a high proportion of deaths in police custody are related to drunkenness. Out of 183 deaths in the custody of the Metropolitan Police between January 1985 and March 1993, 46.5 percent of cases were drink related.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, so there is a picket of Hammersmith police station on the first Monday of every month from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. in support of the Free Malcolm Kennedy: Justice for Patrick Quinn Campaign organised by Hackney Community Defence Association and Hammersmith and Fulham Irish Community Forum.

Who Killed Patrick Quinn? The Framing of Malcolm Kennedy,Hackney Community Defence Association, £3.00

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Last updated: 28 December 2017