Bulgaria: Failing to Target True Shields Case Culprit
The pardoning and release of Michael Shields has received a very mixed reception in Bulgaria this week and although the Liverpool public might not understand why, a mixed reception is the best the UK Justice Minister could have expected.
With his announcement on Wednesday Jack Straw really should have opened a can of worms and you can tell he knows it by the length of the statement giving reasons for his decision. The Bulgarian government however failed to react. I state this not because of the Shields pardoning but because of the admittance of guilt of another UK citizen - Graham Sankey.
For many reasons Straw picked the perfect time to make his announcement; He immediately snuffed out the challenge of Michael Shield's father who would have won a huge amount of popular support if he had done as had threatened to do and run against him in future elections. Straw also caught the new center-right Bulgarian government at a time when they are out to impress Europe in an attempt to win back millions of euros worth of frozen EU funds - part of which were stopped because of Bulgaria's failing justice system.
The following three reactions really do sum up the views on the case of the majority of Bulgarians - completely mixed:
a) The reaction of the former socialist government Foreign Affairs Minister and Deputy PM, Ivaylo Kalfin, was very critical he said he was very shocked by the decision and that it "gave a very bad signal to football hooliganism".
b) On the other hand a Justice Ministry statement seemed to have surprisingly little to say; "The act of granting a pardon is in line with the regulations of the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and it was up to the British authorities to take their own decision."
c) Lazar Gruev, chairman of the Supreme Cassation Court, seemed to praise the decision: "The granting of a pardon is an act of state mercy. Each of us has to have mercy for the victim, but also respect for the court," Gruev said, adding that the United Kingdom has one of the longest traditions in the exercise of this rare power."
However perhaps the most vital reaction, or should I say lack of reaction, in this case is not from a Bulgarian or Shields but rather from the person who should currently be in jail - Graham Sankey. Now Shields is out and is a free man no one seems to have turned their attention to the serious matter of Sankey being allowed to get off without so much as a scolding. Sankey himself has admitted that he attacked Bulgarian barman Martin Georgiev, leaving him fighting for his life in 2005 - what more need I say.
The truth is that if the Bulgarian judicial system and government was more confident and was not recovering slowly from years of corruption and neglect, Sankey would be a targeted man. Sadly though the alleged true culprit in this case, which is not the Bulgarian Justice system and may well not be Shields, is now going to escape from his deserved place behind bars!