RETIRED lawyer Len Murray, a true legend of the Scottish courts, has been in Australia to give the prestigious annual Bray Oration named in honour of the late John Bray, a former chief justice of South Australia.

Murray used his talk, and interviews broadcast on the ABC network, to tell the story of the last teenager to be hanged in the UK: Anthony Joseph Miller, who was 19 when he went to gallows three days before Christmas in 1960.

The veteran solicitor’s views are timely, given the recent calls to “bring back hanging” that included petitions to the UK Parliament.


MURRAY was then a 27-year-old lawyer in Glasgow, and his client was an apprentice cabinetmaker from a respectable family living on the south side of Glasgow.

Miller and his friend James Denovan had hit on a money-making scheme that involved the younger Denovan luring gay men only for him and Miller to gang up on their victims and demand blackmail money.

The scheme went wrong on April 6, 1960, when the pair attacked John Cremin in Queen’s Park, beating him to death and robbing him of his bank book, a watch and £67. It was the robbery aspect that would condemn Miller, who was only charged after Denovan was caught in an act of indecency and confessed to the killing. He implicated Miller, whose life was then on the line.


MURRAY told ABC that while there was little doubt Miller was guilty of killing a man, his punishment did not fit the circumstances of the crime. The law of the time was quite categoric that the death penalty should be imposed on Miller because the killing occurred during a robbery.

It was Denovan who had planned the crime but he was only 16 when the murder was committed and was therefore ineligible for the death penalty. Miller, however, was over the statutory age of 18 and thus could be hanged.

Murray explained that Miller had a clean record. The lawyer, who wrote his autobiography The Pleader after he retired in 2003, said: “His parents were decent, hardworking people and the punishment in fact was not a punishment of the boy, it was a punishment of his family.”


AT the time the issue of the death penalty was at the centre of public debate, with abolitionists making steady progress.

Murray and his team exhausted the appeals process before Miller’s family organised a petition for clemency that was signed by 30,000 people.

The decision that the execution should proceed was taken by the then Secretary of State for Scotland, John Maclay, later Viscount Muirsheil.

Miller was kept in Barlinnie Prison, where hangman Harry Allen carried out the execution just after 8am on December 22, 1960.

His last words were “Please Mister”, which became the title of a play and film about the case.

Miller was the first person to be hanged in Scotland after the execution of serial killer Peter Manuel in 1958. Tony Miller was the last man hanged in Glasgow, and the second last in Scotland, with Harry Burnett going to his death in Aberdeen’s Craiginches prison in 1963.


HE told ABC: “I had no particular view on the rights or wrongs of capital punishment but my experience in Tony Miller’s case made me a pretty bitter abolitionist. I’m not entirely sure if I have forgiven our society for having taken the life of that boy.”

Miller’s case is said to have changed many people’s minds about capital punishment for murder, which was abolished in the UK in 1965.