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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Injustice network to be launched
Paddy Hill
Paddy Hill was wrongfully imprisoned for 16 years
Victims of miscarriages of justice are combining with academics to help people who have been wrongly convicted.

The UK Innocence Network will also be actively involved in research into wrongful convictions.

The network is designed to help those convicted of criminal offences who have exhausted all appeal processes.

Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six, and Robert Brown, who spent 25 years wrongfully imprisoned, are among those backing the organisation.

Battle

Mr Hill, speaking at the network's launch at Bristol University, said that when he was freed in after 16 years in prison in 1991 his treatment, and that of the rest of the Birmingham Six, was "worse than when they dragged us off the street and put us in prison".

You're left to fend for yourself. I was one of the lucky few who managed to get a journalist to investigate my case
Michael O'Brien

He went on to say that getting someone out of prison was only half the battle, and many victims of miscarriages of justice turned to drink and hard drugs.

Other supporters of the scheme include veteran broadcaster and author Sir Ludovic Kennedy and Michael O'Brien of the Cardiff Newsagent Three.

Mr O'Brien, 34, and two other men were wrongly jailed for the killing of Philip Saunders in 1987.

They were released on bail in 1998 and cleared by the Court of Appeal a year later.

Mr O'Brien said that people who have been wrongfully convicted are not being looked after when they are released from prison: "You're left to fend for yourself. I was one of the lucky few who managed to get a journalist to investigate my case."

'Innocent'

Dr Michael Naughton, a lecturer in criminal law at Bristol University, is pioneering the new group in the UK.

There are already similar networks in the US and Australia.

He said the criminal justice system is in "crisis" because it cannot cope with the number of people who believe they have been wrongly jailed.

"I do not think that all those prisoners who say they are innocent are necessarily innocent, but there is nothing in the system to address this massive problem," he said.

The organisation will bring together victims, campaigners, academics and politicians.

Dr Naughton said the organisation hoped to change the legal system, which he said was currently "balanced in favour of the prosecution".

He estimated that 65m a year is spent on imprisoning people who have been wrongly convicted, and that the public were wrong to assume that miscarriages of justice were rare.

He said 25 people a day successfully appeal against their convictions.


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