Saturday 25 November 2017

Many innocent still languishing in jail – Paul Hill and Gerry Conlon

David Raleigh

Two men who suffered the worst miscarriages of justice in British history have accused the Irish and British governments of turning their backs on innocent people sent to prison.

Gerry Conlon – one of the Guildford Four – spent 15 years in prison for an IRA bombing campaign he had no involvement in. Paddy Hill – one of the Birmingham Six – was wrongly jailed for 17 years for similar crimes.

Both men yesterday accused the Coalition and its counterpart in England of "washing their hands" of innocent Irish men and women who, according to Mr Conlon and Mr Hill, have either been framed or are currently rotting in jail.

Speaking at the University of Limerick, Mr Hill said: "If what happened to us meant that no other innocent people were going to go to jail, in some way we could accept it – but unfortunately, it's not that way.

Paddy Hill and Gerry Conlan with Aileen Dillane at the University of Limerick. Sean Curtin
Paddy Hill and Gerry Conlan with Aileen Dillane at the University of Limerick. Sean Curtin

"More and more innocent people are going to prison. I don't know how many are presently (before) the Criminal Cases Review Commission in England and Scotland (but) it's just a ridiculous situation," Mr Hill added.

Mr Conlon said he believed powerful organisations like MI5 are involved in a "dirty tricks" campaign against certain people.

Advocating on behalf of people who claim to be victims of miscarriages of justice, Mr Conlon and Mr Hill said lessons needed to be learned from how they were treated by the British judicial system.

"We need accountability, we need transparency and we need accessibility to the judiciary and they need – when things go wrong – to be told the truth."

Although the scandals of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six cases have been known for more than 30 years, they have been denied full access to the entire case files.

"We are the only two cases in British criminal history where the Official Secrets Act has been applied. It was recommended that our cases be held under the Official Secrets Act for 75 years. That's longer than the secrets from the Second World War."

Mr Conlon said he was no longer bitter but admitted he was still angry at what had happened to him and Paddy Hill.

Mr Conlon – who is campaigning for the release of dissident republican terrorists known as the Craigavon Two (Brendan McConville and John-Paul Wooton) convicted of the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009 – denied he was politically motivated to have the men freed.

"I don't support Republican violence. But, I support the right for people to have a fair trial (and) for the right for justice to be done and to be seen to be done," said Mr Conlon.

Constable Carroll was shot dead by the Continuity IRA in Craigavon, Co Armagh, in March 2009.

Irish Independent

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