25th anniversary of release of Birmingham 6

“The 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six should act as a clarion call: there are many innocent men and women languishing in prisons in the UK, who urgently need legal representation to turn the excruciatingly slow wheels of British justice.
We cannot let a miscarriage of justice to this scale ever happen again.”

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It is 25 years since the convictions of the Birmingham Six were quashed amid dramatic scenes at the Old Bailey in London.

Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, Johnny Walker, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny and Billy Power had spent nearly 17 years in prison for crimes they had not committed, and are widely considered to be victims of one the most notorious miscarriages of justice in British history. However, despite efforts to prevent future wrongful convictions, we find that innocent people are still at great risk of suffering perhaps the greatest injury that the state can inflict on its citizens.

When the six were released in 1991, hot on the heels of other high profile miscarriages of justice such as the Guildford Four, it was hoped that lessons would be learned so that wrongful convictions do not happen again.

The Birmingham Six outside the Old Bailey in London, after their convictions were quashed on March 14 1991. Sean Dempsey/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Conservative government set about a root and branch reform of the criminal justice system, and the ensuing report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice made several recommendations for preventing and rectifying miscarriages of justice. However, the chair of the commission, Lord Runciman, has since admitted that no attempt at reform could completely eradicate wrongful convictions.

There are a whole host of reasons why people still find themselves wrongly accused and convicted of crimes. False allegations, especially those involving sexual offences, have resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of innocent people. Prosecutorial misconduct has led to suspects giving false confessions, as in the case of Paul Blackburn.

On occasion, inadequate defence by lawyers can mean that crucial evidence is sometimes missed. Additionally, the testimony of so-called experts can sway a jury to convict, even when the evidence provided does not stand up to scrutiny. In the cases of Sally Clark and Angela Cannings, expert evidence swayed the jury to believe that they had killed their babies, but subsequent research showed that the evidence used to convict them was so methodologically flawed that their convictions were clearly unsafe.

Members of the National Birmingham Six Campaign: Breda Power, MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn, and Maggie McIlkenny, at the Houses of Parliament in 1990. PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

If we can’t prevent wrongful convictions from ever happening, how do we at least ensure that people do not end up spending years, sometimes decades, in prison when they shouldn’t be there?

The Runciman Commission recommended the establishment of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). The Birmingham-based CCRC is an independent body with the remit of investigating possible miscarriages of justice and ensuring that appeals are submitted to the Court of Appeal swiftly. Since it began its work in 1997, the CCRC has referred 615 cases to the Court of Appeal, and of the 590 that have been heard, 404 appeals have been allowed.

In many respects, the work of the CCRC is to be commended. However, it is not the panacea for all the criminal justice system’s ills. The CCRC is inadequately funded, and lacks the resources to investigate every claim fully. In fact, their statutory remit means that they are not there to advocate on behalf of prisoners. They are charged with investigating claims, and making a decision as to whether or not there is a “real possibility” that the Court of Appeal would overturn the conviction.

This can be a real problem when we recognise that two out of three applicants to the CCRC have no legal representation, so their applications are not as rigorous as they might otherwise have been. Criminal appeals lawyers are poorly paid, with the result that many are unable or unwilling to take on cases that might sometimes run for years – especially when the bill is not settled until an appeal is finished.

In 2001, Paddy Hill helped launch MOJO, a new organisation to fight miscarriages of justice. Ian Nicholson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

In recent years, several new initiatives have been set up to assist alleged victims of miscarriages of justice put together their applications to the CCRC. Law schools across the country, including here at Birmingham, have also developed projects to investigate claims of wrongful conviction.

In 2014, Cardiff Law School’s Innocence Project oversaw the successful appeal of Dwaine George, who spent 12 years in prison for the shooting of 18-year-old Daniel Dale in Manchester before his release. Declaring the conviction “no longer safe” Sir Brian Leveson expressly praised the students who had worked so diligently on the appeal.

Earlier this year, the Centre for Criminal Appeals (CCA) received its legal aid contract, enabling it to provide legal assistance to prisoners who cannot afford the cost of a lawyer. The CCA was set up by people with experience of exonerating prisoners in the US, including those facing death sentences. Investigators and lawyers at the CCA emphasise the need for boots-on-the-ground investigation, to complement the desk-based work that has historically characterised criminal appeals work in England and Wales.

These initiatives work alongside campaigning organisations such as The Justice Gap, Inside Justice, and the numerous other groups that have been set up by family members of the incarcerated – but there is only so much that a few committed but poorly paid lawyers and investigators can do.

The 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six should act as a clarion call: there are many innocent men and women languishing in prisons in the UK, who urgently need legal representation to turn the excruciatingly slow wheels of British justice.

We cannot let a miscarriage of justice to this scale ever happen again.

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New leaflet – Full size

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Craigavon mural

Well done to all the activists who helped put up our mural in Craigavon

‪#‎JFTC2‬

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Ireland has it’s own case of ‘Making a Murderer’ – in the case of the Craigavon 2 and at the hands of the British state. Find out more about the case on our website www.jftc2.com or like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @craigavon2 to follow the case. Thank you!

Writing’s on the wall

GABLE

Campaign supporters in Maghera recently refurbished this gable wall and erected this brilliant mural highlighting the continued miscarriage of justice. The JFTC2 committee and both Brendan and John Paul are deeply grateful for this act of solidarity.

Sun pays out 50k to Witness M

Newspaper that printed scurrilous Hillsborough disaster lies awards Witness ‘M’ 50k.

The Sun has paid out £50k to Witness M in the Craigavon Two case. Anyone that knows the case FACTS know that Witness M;
1. Only came forward to the police 10 MONTHS after Brendan and John Paul were arrested – he also called the PSNI in the middle of the night and intoxicated.
2. Continuously lied under oath
3. Was discredited by his own family and described as a “Walter Mitty”
4. Had no corroboration on his version of events, including the person who he said he was with when he claims to have seen Brendan McConville.
5. Has received monthly payouts from the PSNI since his ‘evidence’, as well as holidays paid and debts cleared.
6. Kate Carroll has said neither JP Wootton nor Brendan McConville shot her husband.
Witness M is a liar – this is a fact and the Sun have rewarded him for his role in putting two innocent men in jail for life sentences is absolutely disgusting and will be challenged.
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We won’t be silenced – Joanne Donnelly.

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The Screws at Maghaberry began frustrating attempts by committee members to visit Brendan McConville. Several attempts were made all week to secure a visit only to be lied to and the visit terminated without a valid reason, the JFTC2 committee deplores this behaviour and will not be deterred from its work by such orchestrated tactics read the chronology of the attempts made by Joanne our chairperson to visit Brendan.

“”On Thursday morning after 11.30am I called to book a visit to see Brendan McConville for the Friday, this visit was confirmed by the booking office operator. I then received a phone call later on the Thursday afternoon to inform me that Brendan was brought out on the same afternoon, only a few hours after my call that morning. Outraged I called the booking office at 4pm, only to be on the phone for an hour, disconnected twice and generally passed around, repeating the reason for my call over and over again. The call finally disconnected at 5pm, closing time, with no resolve to my complaint. The Friday morning, after trying for almost an hour to get through I was able to book a visit for Sunday. I was then informed that while I was on the phone booking a visit, Brendan was already on his way to the visiting room. Bare in mind I hadn’t booked a visit by this stage and was still on the phone to eventually get a visit booked for Sunday afternoon. On the Sunday morning, once again for the third time I was informed that Brendan had once again been brought out for a visit. I made my way to Maghaberry Gaol that afternoon to complain to the Visiting Manager, only to be handed a complaints form. I feel outraged by this sabotage, the hassle and annoyance this has caused to Brendan, his family and myself and will persevere for an explanation and return of the lost visit for Brendan. At such a crucial stage in the campaign these sort of repressive tactics are only to likely increase to hinder Brendan and John Paul’s fight for justice. We won’t be silenced – justice for the Craigavon Two!”.- Joanne Donnelly.

Three days messing around and the weekly visit lost, the Campaign will continue in earnest despite these futile actions and the committee will be seeking legal redress of the issue.

‪#‎JFTC2‬

New chairperson elected for JFTC2 Committee

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The JFTC2 committee held its AGM, outgoing chair Packy Carty went over the work carried out in 2015 and the large volume that is already mounting up for 2016.
In keeping with the new sharing of work and democratic rotation within the committee Packy Carty stepped down as chair and called on the committee to elect a new chair for 2016. The Wootton and McConville families nominated outgoing sectary and popular campaigner Joanne Donnelly who was then elected unanimously
Joanne leads the campaign into a crucial year. Both Brendan and John Paul’s legal teams will soon submit applications for the Criminal Cases Review Commission to investigate the Craigavon Two case as a miscarriage of justice.
Joanne and the committee call on all who have helped us to redouble their efforts in the year ahead. It is crucially important we bring public pressure to bear to help overturn this gross miscarriage of justice that continues to rob two families of their loved ones and robs two men of their freedom.
The recent phenomenon that is the Netflix series Making a Murderer has put miscarriages of justice on the public agenda, we have seen a renewed interest in Brendan and John Paul as a result of this. JFTC2 will use this period of interest to intensify the campaign for Justice for the Craigavon Two.

Making 2 murderers

MAKING (Medium)

Everyone seems to be talking about the Netflix series “Making A Murderer” about how Manitowoc County in the United States framed Stephen Avery not once but twice.

It’s very interesting to hear how aghast the Irish people and media are about this miscarriage of justice as if this has never happened in Ireland or Britain, have we forgotten about the Guildford 4, Birmingham 6 and the Maguire 7?

Compare the coverage Stephen Avery has received here in Ireland to the complete lack of media attention and public outcry over our own making a murderer case in occupied Ireland.

The Craigavon 2 Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton have been imprisoned for over six years for something they did not do yet no one seems to care.

The Irish media and human rights groups have rightly highlighted the case of Ibrahim Halawa in Egypt but ignore a case just a few miles up the road, why?

Will it take an american documentary for the Irish people, media, human rights groups etc to take notice of this miscarriage of justice?

For more info on the lads case and campaign give their page a like www.facebook.com/JFTC2

Cover up

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There was a fourth man charged in connection with the killing of constable Stephen Carroll.

This man led the PSNI to the AK 47 used in the sniper attack, then the man named in European Court documents as RE had his charges dropped as the judge banned the media from reporting about RE.

None of this was disclosed at the time of the Craigavon Two trial.

The Craigavon Two Committee now want to know why John Paul and Brendan where charged and convicted via joint enterprise using highly dubious evidence while a person who knew the location of the weapon used to kill the PSNI member walked free.

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