To Your Majesty, the Queen
I am writing to you about the awful miscarriage of justice toward the teenager Derek Bentley. I am in no doubt that a gracious ruler such as your self would not stand for such inhumanity and have no joy in putting a boy with so much left to achieve in life to death. I am sure that you have heard how Derek was found guilty of murder, along with his friend Christopher Craig. We all know that murder is wrong, but Derek did not commit murder.
Derek Bentley suffered a tragic accident when he was a young boy, leaving him cursed with epilepsy and a poor mental age. He was sent out of school early, as he could not keep up with the other keep up with the other children. This caused his parents to worry about his future, wouldn’t you?
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Derek obviously was very unconfident with himself; suffering from a low self esteem, extreme self-criticism and little respect for himself. He had spent the majority of life inside; away from social situations, therefore never receiving the social skills required for a boy his age. Craig was his first ‘real’ friend. However, Derek being the kind, sweet, loving boys he is naively let himself into a world where people would not respect someone with an illness like Derek’s disease.
Craig revealed to Derek, a world where violence is one of the only ways to get entertainment and attention. Derek would spend long evenings out with Craig and his group of friends, and Derek’s parents, only wanting him to be happy, were unfortunate to misread his time out as healthy. After several months of friendship, Mr and Mrs Bentley realised that Craig was not the nice boy they wanted their son to ‘hang around with’, manipulative, destructive and corrupt. They recognised that Craig was not good for Derek, and he was being encouraged to break the law. This led them to forbid Derek from ever seeing Craig again. In the same situation, wouldn’t you?
Unfortunately, Derek, with much persuasion from Craig, disobeyed his parents on the evening of the 2nd November 1952, the night when Detective Frederick Fairfax was wounded and Police Constable Sidney Miles was killed. Derek has the mental age of an eleven-year-old child; he is but a young boy trapped in a nineteen year olds body. Even the army turned him away after putting him through the frightful, torturous and exceedingly traumatic tests for epilepsy. Everyone can see that Derek could not have committed this crime, except for the prosecution; would you condemn an innocent, loving, and harmless boy to death?
In addition to this, Derek had no intention of violence on the night in question. He did not completely understand the full scale of what Craig had planned, he only thought that they were going to break into the warehouse of Barlow & Parker, and he did not even know Craig had any ammunition. Before this shocking, dreadful and tragic night, Craig had only ever carried an unloaded gun around Derek.
Derek does not even own or carry any weaponry. Craig was the one who had the gun, and he had brought the knife and homemade knuckle-duster with a spike on with the intention of giving it to Derek. From this alone, it is clear that Craig is the one with the sinful, violent and life destroying purpose, not Derek. Can you not see that?
It is true that Derek was heard to shout, “Let him have it, Chris!” This has been witnessed by many police officers, the upholders of the law. But has it crossed the mind of the court that he did not mean for Chris to shoot. How could a child, which is what Derek is as he only has the mental age of an eleven year old, have murderous thoughts? They couldn’t. Instead, he simply meant, let the detective have the gun Chris; surrender. Maybe the court just wanted to get revenge for the death of PC Miles? Maybe they have just decided that Derek meant shoot, even though you don’t truly know what he meant? Or maybe they are just afraid that the young minds of Britain has been tainted so much, that they are able to kill? But Craig is not the child in this ‘partnership’ as it is called. He is the initiator and the leader. I cannot imagine how anyone can believe such a young, genuine and obedient boy such as Derek meant shoot.
Whilst Craig was shooting, Derek was under arrest. However, Detective Fairfax did not restrain him in anyway. This was mainly due to the fact that Craig had shot him in the shoulder. Derek could have easily overpowered the helpless Detective and run away. Yet he didn’t. One would expect that if as assumed, Derek had told Craig to shoot he would have joined his friend at any point; out of the firing line. Yet he didn’t. He simply stood next to the wounded Detective, unrestrained, while Craig killed PC Sidney Miles and tried to murder many more.
When at the trial, Derek was incorrectly bombarded with questions, which were far to advanced from his mental capacity. This created the appearance of confusion, which in turn made him appear to be guilty. This was further enhanced by what appeared to be a partial Judge. In my eye, he appeared to use Derek’s confusion to show the jury how ‘guilty’ he was. In the end the jury wrongly found Derek guilty, but with a recommendation for mercy. This was dismissed by the Judge without a second glance. He appeared to believe that there was no way that Derek could be the guiltless, naive, and more docile of the two. How could this be? We will never know.
At this very moment, countless people are campaigning against the unfair, unjust and unacceptable sentence passed to Derek. We believe that Derek Bentley is a sweet boy, who was naively dragged into the whirlwind of a manipulative friendship and the gangster scene; straight from the American movies. We have written to the Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, but he refuses to see the reasons for intervening in the case, even though he has received a petition signed by about two hundred MP’s against Derek’s death, and the suggestion of mercy from the jury. We urge you to pardon Derek. How can this many people be wrong about his guilt? How can you turn a blind eye to this devastatingly incorrect sentence? How can you murder someone who is clearly blameless?
Derek is truly the innocent one of the two, the one who deserves to live. He did not understand what was going on. He is just a child. There is an execution age limit of eighteen years for a reason; a child would not be able to comprehend the crime they had committed. As previously mentioned, Derek was not violent in any way whilst under arrest and he did not try to get away or to join Craig, which would have been easy as Detective Fairfax was wounded. He never fought his arrest. Can you not see that the wrong man is being killed? One innocent man involved in this case has already been killed; does the British Justice System want to live with the guilt of killing another?