By David Rose
The top barrister just appointed as the new terrorism watchdog is accused of an alleged cover-up of vital evidence that could cause one of Britain’s biggest terrorist cases to collapse – the convictions of four men jailed for the ‘21/7’ attempted London bombings.
Max Hill QC, who has acted as lead prosecutor in many terrorist trials, was chosen last month by Home Secretary Amber Rudd to be the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. He started the high-profile role last Wednesday – it requires him to monitor whether Britain’s terror laws are working fairly and to report to Parliament.
But The Mail on Sunday can today reveal that when Mr Hill presented the 21/7 bombings case to Woolwich Crown Court in 2007, the prosecution team he led had been warned that forensic evidence against the four defendants and another member of the gang might be deeply flawed.
Government scientists from the Ministry of Defence Forensic Explosives Laboratory (FEL) set out their concerns about the questionable evidence in a report before the trial. This should have been disclosed to the defence under rules to guarantee fair trials – but the report stayed hidden.
Mr Hill has said he was not aware of the FEL report before the trial.
But other documents, obtained by this newspaper, show he did know serious issues about the forensic evidence had been raised by FEL experts. These documents, published here for the first time, were also not disclosed before the trial.
They include the minutes of a secret ‘case conference’ held on November 22, 2006, eight weeks before the trial began, with Mr Hill, Scotland Yard officers and other prosecution lawyers.
There Mr Hill personally quizzed Dr Stuart Black, an associate professor in Reading University’s archaeology department, who conducted forensic tests critical to the prosecution’s case. It is highly unusual for an archaeologist to be consulted in this capacity.
Dr Black’s evidence demolished the claims by the bombers that their devices were not designed to kill and maim. His tests supposedly proved that the devices were viable, and their chemical make-up was sufficient for them to detonate with destructive force.