The Ferris Conspiracy Forum
Sign up  |   |   |  Calendar

  Author   Comment   Page 3 of 37      Prev   1   2   3   4   5   6   Next   »

Avatar / Picture

Posts: 3,165
Reply with quote  #31 

Hi Hammer6... thanks for an excellent post on miscarriages of justice, which although very interesting, was very sad reading.  I will very much look forward to your update on the Scottish names involved in miscarriages of justice, as I'm sure we all will.

I'd rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I am not".

Avatar / Picture

Posts: 815
Reply with quote  #32 



In a criminal trial the burden is upon the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond any reasonable doubt. Juries are directed that unless the evidence makes them satisfied so they are sure of guilt, their verdict must be one of not guilty.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt

At the end of a three-week trial a jury decided - on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence - that Derek Christian should serve a life sentence for a crime of which he is innocent. It decided - beyond reasonable doubt - in a mere two hours and ten minutes.
   Derek is now serving a mandatory life sentence at HMP Frankland.


 Convicted of murder not only on the strength of circumstantial evidence, but also in the face of conflicting - and in part very doubtful - prosecution evidence.

   Derek Christian has always protested his innocence. He will continue to do so. This decision will, in all probability, cost him any hope of ever being granted parole. Of that there can be very little doubt.

   We also firmly believe that Derek is innocent. We wish to see that justice is done. Rather than being seen to be done. In this regard, we can only echo the words of the Lord Chief Justice - "This is such a strange and obscure story that it is difficult to recommend any punitive term with complete confidence."

   His leave to appeal having been refused, the only way forward for Derek is through the Criminal Cases Review Commission. 
   Reversing a miscarriage of justice is a difficult and lengthy process. One which can take decades rather than years, as is demonstrated by the cases of Andrew Evans, Stefan Kiszko and James Hanratty, to name but three of countless others.

   If, after reading the following articles and viewing the evidence, you are left with any reasonable doubt as to Derek's conviction, he would greatly appreciate your support.

 Download the booklet 'Beyond Reasonable Doubt' (pdf)


A personal message from Derek

Derek Christian has now spent a
total of 3413 days in prison.
Today is
31 March 2006
At this moment in time the only freedom I have is the freedom of speech.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for logging on to this site, now that you are here I hope you will continue to read on.

I am an innocent man who has been let down by this country's judicial system. I would like to see the scales of justice balanced in my favour. My fight for freedom will go on until justice has been done.

My fight has been made easier thanks to the support of my family and friends, and the support I receive from people such as yourself who have never met me. It means a great deal to me when I receive words of encouragement and comfort from people who have read about my case.

I will never give up hope. It is all that I have.

Once again, I'd like to say thank you for reading about my plight.


Avatar / Picture

Posts: 3,165
Reply with quote  #33 

Hi Magpie... thanks for yet another excellent post, highlighting the very tragic case of Derek Christian.  Having read your post, I find it very disturbing (and extremely sad) that this man was convicted of murder and is now serving a life sentence - ON THE BASIS OF PURELY CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE AND CONFLICTING PROSECUTION EVIDENCE.


It is also very sad to know that because Mr Christian is continuing to protest his innocence for a crime he did not commit, he will not be granted parole.


I'm sure I speak for all on the forum when I say that our thoughts are with Mr Christian, and indeed, his family, and we wish him all the best in his fight for justice.

I'd rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I am not".

Avatar / Picture

Posts: 9,111
Reply with quote  #34 

Derek Christian, Do not give up nor feel bitter as you are not alone we are a community committed to change the things we can and to expose the things we cannot.................Be STRONG!



Derek Christian was convicted in 1997 of the cold-blooded murder of a 66-year-old woman in broad daylight. Why is Derek Christian, who - by the police's own evidence - had a "pronounced" goatee 3 days after the murder, serving a life sentence for a crime committed by a man described as "clean-shaven" by the eye-witnesses? Please refer to the separate page for more details - Beyond Reasonable Doubt - Justice for Derek Christian


CASE #2 :


Imprisoned for crimes for which he still maintains his innocence, David (G) Ashberry found that one week in March 1997 changed his life. It started on the Sunday afternoon with no indication of what was to follow. David and his girlfriend made a hurried visit to the family home in Middleton (which is in Manchester, England) to give his Mum a gift for Mother's day. David was involved in a rap group and felt that he was letting them down if he was late especially as they were currently preparing an important demo.
Next day, David called in at Middleton and talked with his Dad about the decoration of a flat he was planning to take. They discussed the progress on the demo and David said that he needed to do some more work because his late arrival the previous day had held things up. Later two of his friends confirmed that they had been preparing a demo at that time and had been working together on the Monday evening. However that evening as the young men rapped in a flat in Princess Road, South Manchester two black males were preparing for an armed robbery on an off licence at the Racecourse Estate in Sale. That robbery went horribly wrong with the killing of an innocent shopkeeper who tried to defend himself against the gunman with a machete.
On the following Saturday evening after leaving a friend's house, David set off in his car to be surprised by a group of police cars blocking and surrounding him.
After interviewing him for hours after his arrest for the murder, the only evidence the police had was a statement from Natalie Collins, who lived near the off licence. David knew Natalie through an acquaintance Tony who temporarily unable to drive through injury appreciated getting lifts to Natalie's flat. Despite the anomalies they encountered, police charged David with murder and later added an armed robbery at a post office.
Right from the beginning we have believed that the facts pointed to someone else having committed the murder. One fact is the certainty of the gunman having been wounded.
At the trial the prosecution claimed that the victim had previously lost the strength in his wrist and forearm and was unable to strike a telling blow with the machete. His father-in-law admitted under cross examination that the murdered man had recovered his grip and that they both used the sharp machete to open boxes at the shop. There were fibres on the machete, which would indicate that it had cut through material, drops of blood outside the shop, and an eye witness outside the shop described how the gunman held his arm to his side and stumbled as he tried to leave the scene of the crime. Naturally police made extensive enquiries at hospitals through Greater Manchester for a black male with wounds to his forearm and abdomen.
As they searched and arrested David on the Saturday, one jubilant officer lifting David's sweater said, "Let's see your new appendix scars".
The police were surprised that there were no cuts, wounds, scars or even bruising.
Natalie Collins
Four days after the murder the police had raided Natalie Collins's flat for firearms and she subsequently made several statements including the allegation that Tony, her ex-boyfriend, had told her that he and David had attempted to rob the off licence and that David had done the shooting and left her flat in his silver grey car.
It was also claimed that Collins alleged David, Tony and his brother Lee were responsible for a post office robbery in Sale a few weeks earlier.
This was only circumstantial evidence but there was so much potential for forensic evidence.
Lack of physical evidence
Forensic tests were carried out on:-
The post office and off licence premises; a stolen car and a pickaxe handle supposedly used in the PO robbery; the silver grey car driven by David; David's hair, skin and clothing which would have been showered with gunpowder if he had fired a gun; the machete used by the victim and spots of blood outside the off licence. The sum of the findings was a nano gramme (one thousandth part of a gramme) of nitro glycerine in the passenger footwell of David's car. That microscopic speck is borderline to even being recognised; it can come from a number of sources; is not consistent with the presence of a gun and in that quantity is likely to be from contamination when the car was searched.
There was also Natalie's flat where David allegedly spent the night prior to the post office robbery and was supposed to have visited twice on the evening of the murder.
An exhaustive police search failed to produce any forensic evidence that either David Ashberry or Lee Watt had ever been in the flat: Lee's brother Tony said that he never asked any of his friends into the flat because it was never cleaned. Forensic analysis had failed to identify either a finger or palm print, hair or fibre or anything linking David to that flat at any time.
Police must also have noticed that David didn't match the facial and description given by eye witnesses at either of the offences for which they had been hunting for him.
The eye witnesses from outside the off licence provided facial and height details which clearly described a different person and naturally they did not pick David out from the identification parade for which he readily volunteered.
Seven eye-witnesses at the scene of the post office robbery described the tallest of the three masked robbers to be under 6' - very similar to the taller robber involved in the murder: David is 6'4".
Prosecution witness
At the trial the only evidence submitted for the post office charge was the claim by Collins that David and the two others she named had stayed at her flat on the night prior to the crime. Collins claimed that the three suspects had been in her flat when she left before 9 am on the morning of the robbery. During the course of her short trip she passed the post office. She found that it had been robbed and returned to her flat to find the three were there. No evidence was offered to suggest that any of the three had left the flat while Collins was out. There was no person nor no evidence collaborating Collins' story.
Under cross examination, Natalie Collins admitted that she had included Lee's name in her statement at the suggestion of the police.
When questioned about the off licence and her relations with Tony Watt, Collins admitted to benefiting as a result of her statements, made ten contradictions with her own statements; further contradictions of her evidence were made by other prosecution witnesses; she showed disrespectful behaviour - admitted that she was being sarcastic to the court; swore at the judge and barristers - stormed out of court four times; she refused to answer some questions from defence barristers. By the judge's refusal to hold her in contempt, Collins was effectively allowed to select which questions she answered and which she chose to avoid. The questions she avoided were significantly related to her dealings with the police.
In his summing up Judge Sachs excused Collins' behaviour and invited the jury to consider whether Collins' story was too incredible to be untrue. Strange logic - does it mean that the bigger the lie, the more likely he feels it is believable? Or was the story simply created after David's arrest with the help of other people?
Role of Police
There was intense pressure on the police to produce a result following criticism of their lack of response to previous problems on the estate.
However police didn't follow up evidence of Collins' neighbour who saw a dark blue car being driven away when Collins claimed that the only car driven away from her flat shortly after the murder was David's silver grey car.
Why did the police ignore other leads? Informants on the Racecourse Estate were attributing both crimes to another pair but the police, without investigation, dismissed that as "rumour". Thanks to their deal with Natalie Collins, a murderer escaped punishment and could still be at large.
The machete used by the dead man was covered in blood yet only a swab was taken and the machete was wiped clean without the defence having an opportunity to arrange tests. On the basis of that small sample it was represented to the jury that all of the blood on the machete was the blood of the dead man.
The jury may have drawn incorrect conclusions from David's attitude after being arrested. However his previous experience of the racist attitude of many police made him wary of answering their questions.
Contrary to a police briefing to the press, David was not estranged from his adoptive family. Why did they feel the need to lie about this? One investigative journalist feels that the more dodgy the conviction, the greater the smokescreen of lies the police put out after the trial.
His bedroom has been described by the police as a shrine to guns - another police lie. After searching the room, police found no firearms, no replica guns, no books on guns nor magazines on guns or even on shooting as a sport. The walls, covered in posters, mainly Bob Marley plus other black icons.
The police even tried to claim that David's rapping name "G Rok" was really glox which is apparently slang for a kind of gun. That sort of imagination could have been of great help developing Natalie Collins' story.
Unbelievably the jury returned guilty verdicts for the post office robbery and murder on David and Tony. They were given life sentences. What does it say for our system of justice when, despite Natalie's lies and contradictions, her sarcasm and undisguised contempt for the court, and her refusal to answer critical defence questions, the jury then decided that a 6'4" youth, with no wounds, scars, bruises or any significant forensic evidence against him, was responsible for a murder committed by a male less than 6' tall who was wounded in the process.
David's family and friends, are united in their belief in his innocence. With a new legal team we are gathering new evidence and reviewing the procedures followed in the trial and case preparation. We are committed to overturning this miscarriage of justice, and hope that in the process the people who, through dishonesty, negligence or corruption have robbed David (G) of his liberty are exposed and punished.

David's appeal was turned down on 3 December 1998. He applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, asking it to refer his case back to the Court of Appeal. The CCRC refused to make a referral, and their decision was challenged at a judicial review on 3 December 2004 by M. Birnbaum QC, instructed by Robert Lizar Solicitors.

You may not have realised that you can help correct this miscarriage of justice but we are asking for your support


Avatar / Picture

Posts: 9,111
Reply with quote  #35 

Case #3:


Sue May with her granddaughterConvicted on purely circumstantial evidence of the flimsiest nature, Susan May was the person who cared most for her 89-year-old blind aunt, who was, in all probability, the victim of a bungled burglary. Imprisoned in 1993, Sue's case was referred back to the court of appeal by the CCRC in late 1999. Her appeal was dismissed in Decemer 2001.
The Friends of Susan May campaign has established the new website Susan May - Inside and Innocent presenting the case in full detail.
Numerous newspaper articles on the case are also reprinted at this site. Please refer to the separate page Susan May

Susan was released from prison on 26 April 2005. She is continuing to fight to clear her name.



Case #4:

Andrew Pountley was convicted of a heinous crime on the strength of seemingly solid testimony and evidence. Looking deeper, however, we see that not only was some of this evidence flawed, but that Andrew's defence was never presented properly either. Andy consistently maintained his innocence. Please refer to the separate page for more details - Andy Pountley



We are very sorry to have to announce that Andrew died of natural causes in his cell in Frankland Prison on Thursday 28 April 2005, aged 40.

INNOCENT will continue to work with his family to clear his name. Please read the page about Andrew's case.

Andrew's funeral will took place on Thursday 12 May at St. Paul's Church, Royton, Oldham. Supporters of Andrew's campaign to prove his innocence who attended the funeral wore INNOCENT sweatshirts at the request of his family.

Andrew was buried in Hollinwood Cemetery, Lyme Side Road, Hollinwood, Oldham.

Donations in memory of Andrew will be used to establish a fund to assist with the fight to clear Andrew's name and with the cases of innocent people who have been wrongly convicted of serious crimes. Cheques should be made out to "Innocent Trust" (address on contacts page).


Case #5:


Convicted of murder despite the fact the victim had been seen alive and well after the murder is alleged to have taken place. Unfortunately the court was never told this - the police had seen fit not to pass on this vital information to either the prosecution or the defence.

Following a reference by the Scottish CCRC, Steven's conviction has now been overturned and he is free.

Please refer to the separate page for more details - Steven Johnston


Case # 6:


Graham Huckerby is guilty - of saving another man's life. Faced with the choice (at gunpoint!) of allowing his colleague to be shot by armed robbers or letting them onto the security van he was driving, he did what he had been trained to do. Namely to comply with the robbers' demands. This choice was construed by the police as an indication that he was the 'inside man' on the robbery.
Graham's appeal in 2004 was successful and he is now free. The prosecution is not seeking a retrial.
Please refer to the separate page for more details - Graham Huckerby

Graham's co-accused, Shay Power, also had his conviction overturned. Sadly he died following an accident, at the end of 2005


Case # 7:


Chris Danks was convicted of murder in 1984. Chris has consistently denied committing the murder, which happened in the course of a pub brawl.

Chris was released from prison just before Christmas 2005, long after the end of his earliest release date, or "tariff", because he has always maintained his innocence (see related article In denial). Please refer to the separate page for more details - Chris Danks.

For up to date information, visit


Case # 8:


Simon Hall


Simon was convicted of murder despite the fact that forensic and DNA evidence did not place him at the scene of the crime. They were not his boot prints in the garden. They were not his fingerprints in the house. He had no forensic traces of the scene on him or his clothes.

Simon was convicted on the basis that he may have possessed clothes made with similar fibres to those found in the house. 35,000 people in the UK also possess clothes with similar fibres to those found in the house.

Simon had an alibi.

Simon was convicted despite having no motive.

Guardian, November 25 2005, reports that the pathologist in Simon's case, Michael Heath, was severely criticised in an appeal judgment, and 'a raft of murder cases' could be reopened as a result.

Private Eye no. 1143, 14 October 2005, reports that the pathologist in Simon's case has failed to prevent a disciplinary inquiry into his work - article can be viewed on Simon's web site

For more information, visit Simon's website Simon's MP is now supporting his case - see press reports on his website

The pathologist in Simon's case is under investigation for alleged errors in his work in two other murder cases.
Report in East Anglia Daily Times
Visit Simon Hall website




Avatar / Picture

Posts: 8,395
Reply with quote  #36 



Time to name them ALL and to highlight their fight!

The TRUTH is out there...........

Avatar / Picture

Posts: 3,165
Reply with quote  #37 

Admin fully concurs with the Moderator's previous post in that the wrongfully convicted should be named, so that their fight for justice can be highlighted on this website.  They are not alone, and we at will do everything we can to support these people, and ultimately, bring down the corrupt forces that put them behind bars in the first place.

I'd rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I am not".

Avatar / Picture

Posts: 120
Reply with quote  #38 

What we found in assessing both men is that they had been severely traumatised by being wrongfully convicted and wrongfully incarcerated. Both of them suffered enormous emotional injuries from the period of their incarceration and upon release, of course, have attempted ... to try to resume a normal life. But's been very difficult for both of them. ...

[How did prison affect them?]

Well, prison did a lot of things. I think the simplest way of putting it for Joseph Steele is that he withdrew. He went into a deep isolation and I also think a very deep depression by being incarcerated. The hungerstrike by Thomas Campbell is one that's very profound. The scars are deep inside of his psyche. ...

Both men suffer from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incarceration and as a result of going through the entire process of being accused of a mass murder for which they did not commit. Both have handled the situations they were in ... in different ways, but the psychological pathway and consequence, the emotional scarring to both of them, is similar. ... TC is more of a fighter. He's more energetic and active, perhaps because he was a street fighter, in gathering information that was useful to try to prove his claim. And those are differences we still see in both of them. But yet their scars I think are quite similar. ...



Both have masks. ... It's important to recognise that people like Joe and TC who have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated and then are exonerated tend to show the world a mask that they use to cope with the stresses of imprisonment. It's adaptive. It's a survival mechanism to wear the mask, because you can't show someone your vulnerability when you're in a prison environment; it will result in further attacks and victimisation if you're vulnerable and you show too much of your humanness and vulnerability. ... So afterwards the mask continues. ...

Joe tends to let you see underneath the mask as readily as TC  does. And I think that's because Joe's emotions and his underlying injuries and sense of helplessness and hopelessness and depression and feeling battered and defeated by what's happened to him is worn on his sleeve. It's hard not to feel it when you're with him. You feel his pain and you feel how crushed he is as a person. TC has a different mask. ... What you tend to see is a more active kind of intellectually driven person who wants to always find answers to his problem. But underneath the mask, too, is a person whose life was literally turned upside down.

Hey that shark has pretty teeth dear and he shows 'em pearly white.
Just a jackknife has Macheath dear And he keeps it way out of site.

Avatar / Picture

Posts: 3,165
Reply with quote  #39 

Hi mactheknife... thank you for the excellent post with regards to TC & Joe Steele, and how prison affected them.


It deeply saddens me to read that these two INNOCENT men have suffered for many many years, and will probably carry the mental scars with them for the rest of their lives.  In fact, it disgusts me - especially when both men had nothing to do with the tragic deaths of the Doyle family, and yet they were punished for this heinous crime, whilst the guilty walked free.  It is of no surprise that these two men have been severely traumatised by their experiences, all of which were unnecessary. A tragic waste of two otherwise healthy minds.


Very moving and emotional stuff there mactheknife, and I wish TC & Joe Steele all the very best in rebuilding their lives, and my thoughts are with them both.


I'd rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I am not".

Avatar / Picture

Posts: 815
Reply with quote  #40 

Guardian Unlimited
14 March 2001
Innocent 'dumped like
sacks of garbage'

Victims of miscarriages of justice given help to cope with life outside

By Audrey Gillan

When John Kamara walked out of the appeal court last March he had six clear plastic prison bags full of his belongings, a £46 discharge grant and a travel warrant that expired at 8pm that night.

A victim of a miscarriage of justice who had been in prison for the previous 20 years, he was surprised by the swiftness of the overturning of his conviction and was unprepared for life on the outside.

With no support from any official agencies, Mr Kamara, from Toxteth, Liverpool, was bundled into a taxi to the north London home of Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six.

Over the years since his release, Mr Hill has taken in a number of victims of miscarriages of justice because they had nowhere else to go. Only too aware of the problems his fellow "miscarriages" face, his is often an open door.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Mr Hill and the other members of the Birmingham Six. It also sees the official launch of the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO) at the House of Commons. Founded by Mr Hill, MOJO will campaign for some kind of aftercare for people like Mr Kamara who are left on their own, in spite of years of institutionalisation.

"Innocent people are being dumped out of the court of appeal like sacks of garbage, all suffering from severe post-traumatic stress syndrome, without counselling or any psychological help," says the group's literature.

There is little in the way of help for those who have been victims of miscarriages of justice and are then sucked up by the potential vacuum that is life outside. In 1998 the home secretary, Jack Straw, rejected a call from Chris Mullin, the former chairman of the home affairs select committee, for special measures to assist in the care of released miscarriage of justice victims.

Many who have worked with victims have observed that they are profoundly scarred by their experiences and have difficulty in coping with life on the outside.

Adrian Grounds, a psychiatrist at the institute of criminology at Cambridge, examined Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four and four members of the Birmingham Six and found that they were suffering from irreversible, persistent and disabling post-traumatic stress syndrome. He compared their mental state with that of brain damaged accident victims or people who had suffered war crimes.

Gareth Peirce, the solicitor who represented the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six defendants, said: "They come out with no money and no counselling. They have no references, it is difficult to open a bank account, you can't get a mortgage. They have no GP. You don't belong."

Judith Ward, wrongly convicted of the M62 coach bombing, was refused a £5,000 bank loan while she waited for an interim compensation payment and Michael Hickey, one of the freed Bridgewater Three, told a court he had stolen a ring from a Birmingham jewellers to highlight his case. He said: "I did it to say I've been given no money, nowhere to live, what am I supposed to do?"

Mr Hill has been travelling across the country, garnering support for his fledgling group. He said: "Compare what is available for innocent people as compared to guilty people and see what is done for them. When someone makes a decision for a guilty person to be released there is a chain of processes put in place which lasts for about three years. They take them out for a few hours at the weekend. Over a period of a few months those few hours gradually increase. Then they will be out all day and come back at night. They teach them all about modern technology. They are rehabilitated into the system. When they are released they have a place to live, probation services, aftercare services, all sorts of helplines.

"The innocent. One day your ass is sitting in a prison cell and the next day you are in the court of appeal. You are thrown out on the street like a sack of garbage and forgotten about. It's mind boggling coming out. Even in the queue for the supermarket you get wound up with all the computer stuff and credit cards."

Mr Hill said many either become alcoholic or addicted to drugs as a way of blocking severe psychological problems. For most, it is difficult to even sign on with a doctor because they have no paperwork.

Another "miscarriage" to take temporary residence at Mr Hill's home was Paddy Nicholls, who had been in prison for 23 years after being wrongfully convicted of murdering a friend. He was almost 70 when he was released in 1998.

"Paddy had had a stroke at Christmas and was released on bail in the February. They just threw him out. That's a man who was 70 years of age and could hardly walk. They threw him out at the gates of Albany prison. I had to go and pick him up. He had no medication, nothing, and on the way out they even took the tennis ball that they give to stroke victims off him," Mr Hill said.

A year after his release, Mr Kamara still struggles to negotiate this world, though he has found himself a fiancée and a place to live. Mr Kamara had been convicted of the murder of a betting shop manager in Liverpool but it later emerged that the prosecution failed to disclose 201 witness statements taken by Merseyside police to the defence lawyers at the original trial.

Mr Kamara said: "One minute I was sitting with a life sentence and the next minute I was free to go, but go where? I was given a travel warrant to Liverpool that expired at 8pm. I had no money for six to seven weeks. I had no legal documentation, no identity, you are a non person. The DSS granted me an emergency loan of £5 which I had to pay back within 28 days. I told them to keep it.

"The housing manager said because I was a miscarriage of justice why didn't I get a loan and buy myself a property because, he said 'you are going to get massive compensation'. That's how bad it is. Sometimes I thought 'fucking hell, it looks like I'll have to get arrested to get probation'. They seem to push you. They want you to commit a crime."

Six waiting for redress

The Birmingham Six were arrested after the bombing of the Mulberry Bush bar in the city on 1974, in which 21 died. All six were released in 1991 after the case against them was overturned. They had served 16 years:

• Paddy Hill
Founder of Miscarriages of Justice organisation. Lives in north London, has difficulty coping with everyday life

• Billy Power
Lives in east London with wife Nora. Works at homeless hostel. Struggles with everyday life and has had problems bonding with his children

• John Walker
Remarried with a young son, Marty. Living on pension in Co Donegal

• Gerry Hunter
Living in south London

• Richard McIlkenny
Reunited with wife Kathleen and living in Dublin

• Hugh Callaghan
Living in north London

All six await final compensation settlement


27 November 2002

Out on a limb

Victims of miscarriage of justice receive less assistance on release than the guilty. But that could soon change

By Paul Donovan

After Robert Brown was this month cleared of a murder he always said he had never committed, he followed a now well-trodden path of innocent people leaving through the front door of the court of appeal. And like those before him, he found there was nothing much awaiting him on the other side.

Brown, who had served a quarter of a century in jail for killing a woman he maintained he had never met, was at least met by a fellow miscarriage of justice victim, Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six. Indeed, in the absence of other support, Hill and his Miscarriage of Justice Organisation (Mojo) are now helping him cope in the outside world.

"I got no support whatsoever from the system that kept me in prison for 25 years for something I didn't do," says 45-year-old Brown. "The only support I've had has been from Paddy and Mojo, who've given me £300 to live on. Without Mojo, I'd be destitute. The prison service gave me a travel warrant from King's Cross to Glasgow and the appeal court gave me £46."

A fellow Scot who could tell Brown something about life on the outside for the newly officially innocent is Tommy Campbell, exonerated of the murders last December of what became known in Scotland as the "ice cream wars". "There is no support from official sources once you are released," says Campbell. "I've thought sometimes they try to make it difficult - social security, for instance, won't give me the money I'm due."

Campbell recalls his sense of confusion upon release. "In prison, you become conditioned to the abnormal and there is no debriefing process upon release", he says. "We are essentially strangers in a strange land."

Another man who can sympathise with this is Frank Johnson. Cleared in June of the murder of a man 26 years ago, he left Swaleside prison in Kent with a plastic bag of belongings and the standard £46 discharge grant. He was met by Billy Power, another of the Birmingham Six, who had been in jail with him and had fought for his exoneration. Since his release, Johnson has been living with Power and his wife, Nora, in east London. "It's disgusting," says Johnson. "I've got nothing from them [the Home Office]. If it wasn't for Billy, I don't know where I'd be."

A small but steady stream of wrongly convicted prisoners has been emerging from the court of appeal over the 13 years since the Guildford Four were released. All seem to have been treated in the same way. After serving years in jail for crimes they did not commit, they receive less support on release than do the guilty. "Robert Brown has had no counselling in what to expect on his release to the outside world," says John McManus, a Mojo spokesman. "If he had admitted his guilt, he would have been put on a programme, three years before his tariff ended, in preparation for his release."

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, agrees. "Guilty prisoners get trips out into the community to prepare for their return to society," he says. "They would have received training in social skills, information about the outside economy, teaching about cooking, cleaning and general survival. All in all, there would have been preparation for a life where the door was not bolted at night."

Fletcher would like to see a programme established for the resettlement of potentially innocent prisoners as soon as their case is referred to the court of appeal. "Once the case is referred, the prison service should put in place a programme to help that person reintegrate into society," he says. "The probation service should also have a role as it does with guilty prisoners, helping with housing provision and so on."

Power argues that this practical, hands-on help is what is required when a miscarriage of justice victim gets out of prison. "What people need after a successful appeal is help with signing on for benefits, getting registered with the doctor, opening a bank account and dealing with housing needs," he says. "Then there is the question of the psychological damage done to innocent prisoners who have done long periods inside."

There is, at last, a prospect of something being done for such people - at least in England and Wales. The Home Office has awarded an initial 12-month contract to the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux to run a pilot support scheme for miscarriage of justice victims. The service will include visiting and interviewing prisoners prior to their appeal hearings, support during the hearings and, if they are successful, immediate practical advice and help upon release to help them access services and reintegrate into society.

No such scheme, however, is planned in Scotland, where Brown will be resettling. "These people are coming out of the door without any preparation," says Ian Stevens, a forensic psychologist with 30 years experience. "There is often anger there, and the usual resistance of people has broken down. This can result in panic attacks and bursting into tears upon release. There is then the danger of alcohol abuse and suchlike."

At present, says Stevens, the prospect of financial compensation for wrongful imprisonment is seen as sufficient help. Some press reports of Brown's release focused on speculation that he could receive as much as £5m. "There seems to be a popular perception that, once released, they resume life as though it had never happened," says Stevens. "People forget the damage that has been done."

Kevin McNamara, Labour MP for Hull North, is angered that it has taken so long to recognise the plight of miscarriage of justice victims. "The scars of the time spent in prison affect the innocent victims for the rest of their lives," he says. "Too many people believe that miscarriage of justice victims receive compensation and that should be enough - the damage done requires far more than just having money thrown at it."

Even the money takes time to arrive. Individuals may wait for more than six months for an interim payment.

Mark Haffenden, community, education and project development officer of the Prison Advice and Care Trust, believes matters could be improved for miscarriage of justice victims if the compensation process was accelerated. "A speeding up of the system of redress is what we are looking for - it is a timescale thing rather than the level of redress itself," he says. "The levels of compensation are not bad, though you can never fully compensate people for the loss of so many years of their lives."

Getting a foothold

The pilot support scheme for victims of miscarriage of justice is due to start next year and is expected to deal annually with some 20 successful appeals from a total of about 200 lodged with the court of appeal.

The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (Nacab) will run the scheme from its existing office at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The scheme's annual budget will be between £75,000 and £100,000, sufficient to employ one full-time staff worker, one part-timer and one administrative assistant.

The team is expected to be able to draw on other resources, however. "The project will involve the staff directly employed working with other Nacab staff, working in prisons, around the country," says a Nacab spokesperson.

"The prisoner will be contacted when the appeal is lodged and we will then provide support in the lead-up to the appeal. The service will aim to help the prisoner find suitable housing, get benefits, help with work and other practical problems."

Tommy Campbell, Robert Brown and Paddy Hill wearing the new M.O.J.O 'Freedom of Speech' T-Shirts
Tommy Campbell, Robert Brown and Paddy Hill wearing the new M.O.J.O 'Freedom of Speech' T-Shirts


Avatar / Picture

Posts: 8,395
Reply with quote  #41 

Hi Magpie, I am very impressed by your continued and valuable posts (some of which I have borrowed) as it gives a wider picture to our readership and members a view of HARSH REALITY.


There are no doubt many more cases that will come to light of that there is no doubt so thank you once again for some very constructive and relevant posts.



The TRUTH is out there...........

Avatar / Picture

Posts: 815
Reply with quote  #42 

Thanks Hammer6. It is truly despicable how the system can send those victims of MoJ out into what must seem like an 'alien world' in areas, having been away for so long, without support or financial recompense. It is totally dispiriting.


The system should pay compensation immediately upon release and not under the term of an ex-gratia payment either, whereby they do not admit liability to pay compensation, or for causing the event.




Avatar / Picture

Posts: 8,395
Reply with quote  #43 

Precisely Magpie they should pay up and PAY UP NOW!

The TRUTH is out there...........

Avatar / Picture

Posts: 9,111
Reply with quote  #44 

ferrisconspiracy : ARCHIVE


Examining injustice
Numerous miscarriages of justice have come to light in the last 15 years, but have changes to the law made fresh tragedies impossible or is there a need for a more radical and fundamental reform of the criminal justice system?

Audio  Watch Chris Summers’ report   Real 56K

Rumblings of discontent with the British criminal justice system began to grow in the 1980s. Campaigns started to spring up around individual cases. The phrase "miscarriage of justice" was crystallised around two big cases - the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. Both stemmed from IRA outrages against civilian targets at the height of the bombing campaign.

Police appeared to have quickly rounded up the suspects and brought them to justice. In reality the wrong men had been convicted. It was only due to the determination and investigative skills of a TV documentary team and MP Chris Mullin, himself a former journalist, that the injustice suffered by the Birmingham Six came to light.

When they were released by the Court of Appeal in 1989 it seemed there was hope for dozens of prisoners who had been pleading their innocence in vain for years. Other campaigns sprung up and gradually, over the next 11 years, many of these succeeded - including the Guildford Four, Judith Ward, the Darvell brothers, the Cardiff Three, Danny McNamee, the M25 Three and the Bridgewater Four.

Even cases from beyond the grave, such as Derek Bentley and Hussein Mattan, have been revisited and names cleared. But there are still many people in prison proclaiming their innocence.

Fact box
  • 1989: The Guildford Four are released by the Court of Appeal. The detectives at the centre of the case are later cleared of fabricating evidence.
  • 1991: The Birmingham Six are freed. Prosecutions against officers accused of tampering with evidence are halted because of "adverse publicity".
  • 1997: The Bridgwater Four - minus Patrick Molloy, who died in jail - are released after 17 years in prison.
  • 2000: The M25 Three are freed by three Court of Appeal judges who say there had been a "conspiracy" to give perjured evidence.
  • Fact boc bottom

    A miscarriage of justice can result from non-disclosure of evidence by police or prosecution, fabrication of evidence, poor identification, overestimation of the evidential value of expert testimony, unreliable confessions due to police pressure or psychological instability and misdirection by a judge during trial.

    Since 1984 two pieces of legislation have been introduced in an attempt to prevent further miscarriages. The Police And Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) gave detectives rigid rules on how long they could question suspects for and insisted interviews be taped to ensure there was no mistreatment or undue intimidation.

    The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act was also introduced in an attempt to make sure police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) disclose to the defence everything which could be relevant to their case. However a recent review of disclosure undertaken by the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate found the CPIA did not have the "confidence of criminal practitioners".

    Adversarial system under attack

    Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six, is sceptical such legislation is enough. Mr Hill, who has set up his own pressure group Miscarriages Of Justice Organisation (MOJO), told BBC News Online: "Justice is something that is not on this government's curriculum."

    He said the criminal justice system needed a radical overhaul to make it "more open and accountable". Mr Hill would like to see:

  • The adversarial system replaced with a continental-style inquisitorial system, where the driving motive behind any police investigation is the search for the truth.
  • Juries forced to give their verdicts in writing, to amplify on their reasons and guard against the danger of "perverse" verdicts.
  • Judges and other judicial officials being elected, rather than chosen by "the establishment".
  • Changes in the law to ensure police officers who break the law are convicted and sent to prison.

    Kevin Christian, whose brother Derek is serving a life sentence for a murder he denies committing, is a member of the pressure group Innocent. He told BBC News Online: "The biggest problem seems to be the Court of Appeal and its lack of willingness to recognise and correct errors. The Guildford Four is a prime example. Even after the Balcombe Street Gang had admitted they were responsible for the Woolwich bomb, the Court of Appeal would not even entertain the possibility that the Guildford Four were innocent.

    "The adversarial system means that the criminal justice system can easily turn into an upmarket local dramatic society with the two main protagonists being the prosecuting and defence counsels, the difference being that the defence counsel may not have had time to learn his lines before the curtain goes up."

    Mr Christian favours the French system of investigating magistrates or the Staatsanwalte in Germany, in which the prosecuting lawyers are involved from the outset.

    "A mixture of circumstantial evidence and tenuous or contentious forensic evidence can be very tempting to a jury. Many miscarriages result, ironically, from weak prosecution cases. Where there is very little in the way of a prosecution case to dismantle, it is very difficult to mount a cogent defence case," he said.

    Investigating alleged miscarriages

    The Criminal Cases Review Commission was set up by the last government in an attempt to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice properly. It is an independent body responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    The commission has 14 members including chairman Sir Frederick Crawford, barrister Jill Gort, former chief constable Baden Gitt and journalist David Jessel, former presenter of Trial and Error and Rough Justice. Critics say it is under-funded, understaffed and not sufficiently independent. It currently has a backlog of 1,200 cases (about a third of all applications to date).

    Chris Mullin MP, a former journalist for TV's World In Action, said: "Miscarriages of justice can occur under any system and I have no doubt they will occur in the future."

    But Mr Mullin, nowadays a junior minister, told BBC News Online: "We should never be complacent. The system has improved considerably since the big miscarriages of the mid-1970s. PACE, which came in in 1983, had regulated interviews and improved the treatment of suspects and just about all interrogations are now recorded. But the most important change is that people who believe they are the victims of miscarriages of justice have somewhere to go: the CCRC."

    He admitted the CCRC had a backlog and "could do with speeding up its handling of cases" but said it had a good track record. Mr Mullin said: "73% of cases which have been referred back to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC have resulted in quashed convictions."

    Mr Mullin admitted the adversarial system had flaws and said: "There is a strong case for a system which finds the truth, rather than a contest between skilled adversaries. But you should realise that the continental inquisitorial system had also led to miscarriages of justice."

    Police role 'exaggerated'

    The Chief Constable of Kent, Sir David Phillips, is the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on criminal justice and he admitted the system is not perfect.

    "It's not safe. Far too many guilty people are acquitted to the danger of the public. We are too often strangled by a system of rules and interpretation, which prevents us getting to the truth," he said.

    "While trials are contests, there is a high level of acquittals, which must mean either the police or the courts are getting it wrong. Very often the whole case is not heard. Juries are not able to put the whole picture together."

    Sir David does not believe the adversarial system needs replacing but he would like to see changes. He said: "The defence should have to disclose their evidence so the court can take control of it. There is no reason why the defence should be able to keep evidence secret so it can be used in an ambush."

    He believes there should be less of an emphasis on advocates' skills and more on the evidence. "Let the jury see the evidence. I am in favour of them seeing tapes of defendants being interviewed so they can make up their own minds," he said.

    As for the police's role in miscarriages of justice, Sir David believes it has been exaggerated. "In the CCRC's annual report they said that where things had gone wrong it was rarely the police's fault. It was usually the defence or the prosecution."

    When it comes to police officers who fabricate evidence to secure a conviction, he said ACPO was keener than anyone to see them prosecuted and convicted. "If people are going to tell lies about how they obtained evidence, you are going to have difficulties. Most cases of police corruption are discovered by the police and corrupt officers are one of our highest priorities to root out and prosecute," said Sir David.

  • __________________

    Avatar / Picture

    Posts: 815
    Reply with quote  #45 

    Operational Policing 

    Disclosure of Evidence

    On 24 March 2005 Parliament approved an appointed day order bringing into operation a revised code of practice under section 23(1) of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996.

    The code of practice sets out the manner in which police officers are to record, retain and reveal to the prosecutor material obtained in a criminal investigation and which may be relevant to the investigation, and related matters.

    It applies in respect of criminal investigations conducted by police officers in England and Wales which begin on or after 4 April 2005.

    Previous Topic | Next Topic

    Easily create a Forum Website with Website Toolbox.