Page last updated at 11:15 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Hodgson 'will struggle to cope'

By Tom Warren
BBC News

Sean Hodgson
Sean Hodgson wrongly served 27 years in prison

After spending nearly 30 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, how will Sean Hodgson cope on his release?

Mr Hodgson has served 27 years of a life term after being wrongly jailed for strangling Teresa De Simone in Southampton.

Now aged 57, his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal after DNA tests on evidence from the 1979 murder scene showed Mr Hodgson did not carry out the crime.

Throughout his jail term Mr Hodgson always protested his innocence, meaning he was never considered for parole.

Attitudes have changed and things are far more expensive than he would ever have believed possible
Julian Young, Sean Hodgson's lawyer

He is one of the longest serving victims of a miscarriage of justice in UK legal history.

Sean Hodgson's lawyer, Julian Young, said his client was now "institutionalised".

And he has confirmed Mr Hodgson will be seeking financial compensation of up to 500,000 - the highest available amount.

"I think he will find it very difficult to reintegrate himself.

"He has been in custody for 30 years - he was in the middle of serving a sentence for theft when he was charged [with Miss De Simone's murder].

"The pace of life has changed. Chip-and-pin, the benefits system, cars are faster, there are more people on the streets.

"Attitudes have changed and things are far more expensive than he would ever have believed possible.

Julian Young
Julian Young says his client will need emotional support

"Somebody this heavily institutionalised needs a lot of guidance."

Mr Young said despite the challenges ahead, Mr Hodgson was looking forward to life outside prison.

"He is excited because this has all happened very quickly. But he is nervous because he is going to have to face the outside world.

"[Compensation] is a matter I will be dealing with in due course. he is going to need financial support and that will take time."

Miss De Simone's body was found in a car outside the Tom Tackle pub where she worked part-time as a barmaid.

Following the discovery, Mr Hodgson confessed the killing to a prison chaplain while serving a jail sentence for a separate crime.

Flaws in police notes allowed the "Guildford Four" to wrongly serve 15 years for a series of bombings in the Surrey town which left five dead and more than 100 people injured.
After serving 16 years for IRA bombings which killed 21 people in two pubs, the "Birmingham Six" were released in 1991. Tests showed police changed statements
Stefan Kiszko was acquitted in 1992 having served 16 years for the murder of Lesley Molseed, 11, in Greater Manchester. Witnesses admitted lying, while it emerged evidence proving his innocence had not been presented at his trial
In 1997, convictions of three men for killing Carl Bridgewater, 13, in Staffordshire, were quashed after 18 years, when it emerged police had forged a confession
Stephen Downing spent 27 years behind bars for killing typist Wendy Sewell, 34, in Derbyshire. In 2002, judges ruled his confessions were unreliable

But this admission was untrue and during his 1982 trial at Winchester Crown Court his defence team told the jury he was a pathological liar who had previously confessed to many offences he had not actually committed.

Mr Hodgson has now apologised to the family of Miss De Simone for his actions.

"He is sorry for the distress the victim's family was caused when he made his admissions and hopes the police get the right person," Mr Young said.

"The DNA shows that whoever that person is, it's not Sean Hodgson."

Mr Hodgson's brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Lesley Hodgson, from County Durham, will help care for the 57-year-old, Mr Young said.

But the lawyer added his client would need support from community mental health teams and other agencies.

James Banks, chief executive of the Royal Courts of Justice advice bureau, which runs the Miscarriages of Justice Support Service, said accommodation and income were the two biggest challenges facing many people leaving custody.

Since it was set up in 2003, the service, part of the Citizens Advice Bureau, has helped more than 100 people wrongfully jailed.


"There's a huge emotional adjustment to living on the outside," he said.

"Some people find it very difficult to adapt to life without that [prison] routine, without someone telling them when to go to bed at night.

"It's a very disconcerting experience for them, almost everyone has some sort of post traumatic stress disorder."

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