Derek Bentley: A Waste Of Space

After nearly half a century of campaigning, the Bentley family has finally secured not only a pardon but a hand out for the supposed injustice meted out to their imbecile relative who was sentenced to death and executed for the murder of PC Miles while Christopher Craig, who actually pulled the trigger, escaped the hangman on account of his youth. Bentley has been portrayed by his family as a victim in the same manner as Winston Silcott - framed for the murder of PC Keith Blakelock - or even of Stefan Kiszko - the tragic, vulnerable man who spent the best years of his life in gaol branded a child rapist and murderer because forensic evidence that would have exonerated him was suppressed by police officers and a forensic scientist.

The injustice allegedly perpetrated against Derek Bentley is not in the same category as the misfortunes of either of these men. Bentley went out with his youthful chum Craig with a loaded gun, and during the course of committing a felony, Craig shot and killed a totally innocent police officer. When two men go out armed with a common purpose and one of them commits a murder during the course of committing a felony, they can both rightly be convicted of murder. Why else carry a loaded gun? There is the manufactured controversy over “Let him have it, Chris”. But if Bentley had really intended his chum to give up he could have shouted something like “Put the gun down, Chris”.

As for Bentley’s supposed mental deficiency, he was certainly of low intelligence, (he was 19 years old with a mental age of 11), but since when has a low mental age absolved responsibility for murder? The child killers of James Bulger - Robert Thompson and Jon Venables - were not even eleven years old when they committed their terrible crime, but no reasonable person would suggest they were not culpable.

True, PC Miles was not a two year old boy who was abducted, sadistically tortured then callously put to death, but he had a right to life, and it is an insult to his memory that the heirs of one of his killers should be paid compensation for what was without doubt a totally unnecessary and unprovoked murder, and one which would most certainly not have happened if Derek Bentley had refused his chum Craig’s invitation to burglary and carrying a loaded firearm with intent. The death sentence on Bentley may have been harsh, but he was no hero, and neither he nor his family should profit from his crime.

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