Barbara has taken up in Parliament the campaign to free the four Manchester United fans imprisoned in Italy.
The four men, including Michael Burke from Little Hulton were arrested before the Roma v Manchester United Champions League match in December. Barbara met the families of the four men before leading a debate in Westminster on the subject of the trial and conviction of Michael Burke and the families watched the debate from the public gallery.
Barbara put the argument forward that the treatment Michael Burke and the other received in Italy breached their basic right to a fair trial. She also questioned the circumstances of their arrest and criticised the conditions in which Mr Burke has been held. An appeal on the conviction of Mr Burke and the other three men is to be heard on 2nd May.
“The right to a competent interpreter for anyone who does not understand the language of the court is considered a fundamental rule of justice.
"One of my chief concerns about the trial is that Mr Burke was not offered effective or competent interpreting or translation services. That also affected the quality of his legal assistance. The court-allocated lawyer did not speak English, and Mr Burke and the other fans do not speak or understand Italian. Mr Burke and the other men met the court-appointed lawyer in the holding cell immediately before their first hearing, and no interpreter was present. Mr Burke has commented that he had no idea what was happening or what he was being charged with.”
Europe Minister Jim Murphy responded to Barbara’s speech by commending her efforts to highlight Mr Burke’s case and outlined what the Foreign Office has done so far to ensure Mr Burke’s welfare.
He conceded that it was very difficult for the UK Government to interfere with the judicial system of another EU country, but pledged all the support he could offer to further Mr Burke’s case. He concluded by stating the Government’s desire to see all four men returned home as quickly as possible.
“We all hope that…without wishing to second-guess the court proceedings, the appeals are successful on 2 May.”
Earlier in the day, the families of all four men met with Barbara, James Purnell MP and Tom Levitt MP, whose constituents were also caught up in the violence. The MPs listened to the families’ concerns and pledged to provide as much support as possible. The campaign continues.
Barbara with Mr Burke's partner, Carmon Ducker, after the debate in Parliament