15 October 2006

5th National Miscarrige of Justice Day

A public meeting was held in Liverpool yesterday for the annual meeting of various groups involved in Injustice. Many families with very similar, sad stories. It seems to me to be very important that together we make a louder noise about this very serious problem. Obviously the individual case is upper most in the mind of that particular family but if we are to get anywhere in making changes and highlighting the problem about miscarriages of justice we need to come together to be force to be reckoned with? Meetings like is do provide an excellent opportunity to meet with some very interesting people who have worthwhile ideas of how we can move forward. Bruce Kent chaired the meeting and as always ensured things ran smoothly. A workshop was held in the morning and Andrew Green and Kevin McMahon answered questions from the floor. Speakers included Mark Curren, a former CCRC case worker and a solicitor - he gave some very interesting insights into the CCRC and how maybe it has changed from its' concept in 1997? Kevin McMahon spoke on the question of how we attempt to unravel police investigations and Luci Roper who was the partner of Graham Huckerby, cleared of armed robbery after over 3 years in jail, told of the damage done to the convicted person and to their families. Barbara Stone, sister of Michael stone spoke about Michael's case and his ongoing battle to clear his name and Satish Setar who was instrumental in helping to highlight the case of the Cardiff 5, gave a talk on the usefulness of DNA - but stressed that the collecting of samples should be removed from the police and a totally Independent body be in charge. I was the last speaker and here is a copy of what I had to say.


When I spoke last year at this meeting I had only been out of prison a short while and I recall saying how damaged I felt with the whole experience of being wrongly convicted and the years I’d spent in jail. I did think that a year on I may feel better – that it may have diminished and I would now be better able to live my life outside. That is not the case and I come to the conclusion that it will remain with me forever. I have friends who came out with their convictions quashed and even they still struggle. My fight still goes on and in a bizarre way I am sure this contributes to my determination to stay strong and battle on? When I was in prison I was determined to survive the horrors of prison and of course fighting my case dominated everything…that is still the case. People say to me you should just get on with your life now but I can’t. Yes I am free of the confines of jail but I still feel ‘locked up’ because I remain convicted and until I clear my name that won’t change. I have good people around me and I am so thankful for that but I have had some serious battles since I came home. I took every avenue possible to highlight the wrong…going to the Police Complaints regarding issues surrounding the original police investigation and what went on after conviction, and that is still ongoing because I have been harassed since my release from 2 of the officers who worked on the original case and I also went to the OSS Official Supervision of Solicitors who looked into my complaint against my original solicitor and they wrote an excellent report saying he had been negligent and let me down badly and that I had a very good case to sue but not until my conviction was quashed. To cut a long story short the solicitor they appointed to deal with this was excellent, a Mr Jones, but because he could be used at a future appeal as a Defence witness and to prevent conflict of interest I was passed to another a Mr Brown of Lomax Geddes who came on board pro bono as Mr Jones had been. Mr Brown was instructed to ‘keep the case on ice’ a procedure which Mr Jones had explained…i.e. NOT to serve a writ, but to keep extending the time limit indefinitely. Without consulting me Brown went ahead and served the writ and served it out of time, therefore losing me any chance of dealing with this at a later date. Worse still, he then sent me a bill for his services!! This matter has gone on for years, I went from prison on several occasions to fight this in various courts and each time the amount owing went up as court fees were put on me. However once I came home Brown decided to put a land registry order on my home to secure the so called debt. I went to court to fight that and more costs were given, but a few weeks ago he took me back to court to force me to sell my home. After all I’d been thro it felt like the final straw and I admit I nearly went under but in my usual fashion I fought it and on this occasion I won. In fact the Judge wiped the floor with him. I tell you this tale because I feel so strongly about us having a list (of sorts) of good and bad solicitors? I’m sure you can all name solicitors who have let you down and also maybe you know of some who give you confidence…let’s name and shame and identify those who are trustworthy!! What I would also say is no matter how good you feel a solicitor is, it is vital that you still do a lot of work yourselves towards your own case. Usually once recognised as a good solicitor they take on more cases and that is why they need to be constantly pushed. The person you are campaigning for knows their case best… but you on the out should also know the case inside out. Never be afraid of badgering your solicitor…keep on at them to work on the points you know are pertinent to the case. The same applies to the CCRC. Don’t sit back once a case has been accepted by the CCRC thinking they will now do all possible – write them, if possible have contact with the case worker and send them details of what you know is relevant. Use every avenue possible, like the OSS the IPCC. Okay I am certainly not convinced the IPCC is independent, but go thro the process. Use your M.P I know I am fortunate to have a lot of support from many MP’s, my home MP Michael Meacher has been very good along with others and John Mc Donnell has been amazing. We need changes to the whole system and the way forward is to persuade MP’s we are a force to be reckoned with. We all know the rules surrounding appeals are far too stringent and John Reid’s proposals to make even more changes will cause further problems. So much of what Government propose are vote winners – this latest proposal is allegedly to prevent guilty people going free, but at what expense to those who are innocent. Rather than tighten up on appeal laws, more needs to be done to identify police procedures that cause both injustice and those who maybe are guilty being sent to trial on corrupt police procedures! If police followed their rule of law, then guilty people would not get off on a technicality and hopefully we may see fewer innocent people being sent to jail! We need to see police officers in proven miscarriage of justice cases being prosecuted. So not only do you have to fight for the individual you know to be innocent, you really do have to fight the system as a whole for everyone and for future injustices. Our voice needs to be heard. Sadly it is only usually when you become embroiled in this system by knowing someone wrongly convicted that you become aware of how flawed and faulty it is. So lobby MP’s on all these points. Do not allow them to say it is not their problem…it is!
It is uplifting to know that more Universities and students are becoming interested now since Michael Naughton started his initiative to have students study potential injustices and become involved and another point I think we should push for is this. I have had, thro Andrew Green, a retired police inspector working on my case. The work he has done to identify faults (and a lot more) in police procedures from the very onset of my case has been invaluable. Ann Whelan, who campaigned for her son and others in the Bridgewater case, once told me years ago that with almost any injustice the root damage can be traced to the very first stages of police work. And this is so true. All solicitors dealing with an injustice should be willing to employ someone like Des Thomas who has been helping me. I know that like me you may feel reluctant to trust the police in general, but lets face it when they come on board from our perspective they know exactly what goes on and can spot very easily where evidence has been neglected, misused and even buried! So that is another important issue to push for.
I have struggled since my release and could not have coped without the help from my family and friends. I am sure they see me as a different person now because I know I am. No help is available for us. I have tried to get a job but there is a terrible discrimination in the work place when you say where you have been for so many years. As soon as I disclose the word ‘prison’ It’s like I have 2 heads. I got a degree whilst in prison but it counts for nothing and you can be made to feel like a social outcast…that applies for those who have been cleared too!! But the greatest hurdle is trying to readjust. I had hoped I wasn’t ‘institutionalised’ but after years of adhering to a set regime, being so used to doing the same thing at the same time year after year it is inevitable that there is still a part of you that remains rigid in routine. It is so difficult not only for the person who has been in prison but for their families too. We must never forget that all of you have been affected too. My parting words are as always… stay strong, keep fighting, make loud noises whenever possible to those who often don’t want to listen and do not be deterred - my message is, this will not go away…I am not going to go away.

Alan has just posted the following response to the above:

Thank you very much for posting your speech, Susan, it is very interesting reading. I just read it for the second time. I had no idea you went through all that. Unscrupulous is about the only word I can find to describe your bad solicitor. I think none of us can really imagine what the system is like without having gone through this.
I hope you will soon be vindicated, Susan, but as you say, perhaps your ongoing struggle serves to keep you strong. Have you thought about writing a book about your case?

Here is my response:

Hello Alan,
Yes I have and certainly one day I will write a book. The problem I face because I have looked into this, is because I remain convicted, publishers are wary of legal wrangles. Lets face it I need to say lots about police corruption etc. and publishers would be cautious to print - obviously once I clear my name that problem is removed.
Thank you for your comments

08 October 2006

Lord Ramsbottom's article on Prisons

Lord Ramsbottom has written a good article for The Guardian. Click Here to read it. you can also read my own response to the article in the comments section at the end of the article.