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Monday, 24 July, 2000, 22:26 GMT 23:26 UK
Miscarriage of justice victim Raphael Rowe answers your questions

Last week three men - known as the M25 Three - were freed by the Court of Appeal which ruled that their convictions were "unsafe".

Raphael Rowe, Michael Davis and Randolph Johnson were jailed for life in 1990 for a series of robberies close to London's orbital M25 motorway which left one man dead.

The judges said the convictions were unsafe because the original trial jury had not known that a key prosecution witness was a police informer who received a 10,000 reward. Lord Justice Mantell said there had been a "profoundly disturbing" conspiracy to give perjured evidence between an informant and police officers.

But the judges stopped short of clearing the men's names. Lord Justice Mantell said: "This is not a finding of innocence, far from it."

Raphael Rowe, who has been in custody since the age of 19, walked free at the age of 32 and has been spending the last few days getting reacquainted with his friends and family, who campaigned so hard to free him.

Adam Badi, UK: Why were the convictions ruled as unsafe? And why did it take so long to reach that decision to reach that decision after 12 years? As a side question, has one of the freed men become a Muslim?

Raphael Rowe: The convictions were ruled unsafe because a) the police and prosecution failed to disclose evidence until 1998 which, if available at the original trial, would have undermined the prosecution witness's evidence, b) the police conspired with a key prosecution witness who gave perjured evidence, c) a juror visited the crime scenes, d) new evidence came to light which destroyed the prosecution case. It took 12 years because the criminal justice system works against convicted killers trying to prove their innocence.
On your side question, yes Randolph Johnson has become a Muslim.

Martin Jenkins, England: I'm interested to know what Raphael thinks of the judge's comment that this verdict is not a finding of innocence.

Raphael Rowe: I was disgusted with the judge's comments. At the outset of the judgement the court made clear that they review the case on the basis of safe and unsafe and not innocence or guilt. So for the court to make outrageous comments like they did can only mean they wanted to limit the damage our case was about to do to the justice system.

Charles Thompson, UK: It seems to me as though you're just another black man that's suffered at the hands of the police and in danger or becoming just another statistic. There have been so many injustices recently, did you get any support from those who've been before you?

Raphael Rowe: Not really. To fight for your rights you have to do it with your family and friends, with the assistance of your legal advisers.

Andrew, UK: If DNA evidence from the crime scenes came to light would you be willing to "take the test"?

Raphael Rowe:There was plenty of evidence from which DNA could have been tested. However the police did not have it tested and by the time we found out about this evidence it had long been destroyed by the police. Not only could we not have this evidence analysed but we were deliberately hampered in our efforts to prove we were innocent from day one. The police knew of all this material that could have been forensically tested before the trial and suppressed it from our defence team.

Sonia, UK: What are your long term plans now?

Raphael Rowe: I want to travel around the world. I think it important to build new memories. I also want to tell my story through a book and will be working hard to finish that. In the long term I want to work in the media, maybe as a journalist.

Bal, Canada: At any point did you think that you would get justice and be free? Did you think you would die in prison?

Raphael Rowe: I always felt we would win our fight to prove our innocence nad be free. No-one in this case got justice. If our convictions had not been quashed I've no doubt they would have kept me in prison until I was an old man or died.

Harry, UK: I have been told the Birmingham Six still have not been paid full compensation for being wrongly convicted of planting bombs - so what chance do you think you have got of getting compensation?

Raphael Rowe: I have not yet discussed compensation with my legal team. I hope they do give me something for the nightmare they put me through so that I can rebuild my life.

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17 Jul 00 | UK
A question of justice
17 Jul 00 | UK
Long wait for justice
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