Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Hodgson's freedom '11 years late'

Sean Hodgson (L) is supported by his brother Peter Hodgson on the steps of the High Court after being released
Mr Hodgson said he felt "ecstatic" that he was a free man again

A forensic error meant a man who spent 27 years in jail for a crime he did not commit could have been freed in 1998.

Sean Hodgson walked free from the Court of Appeal after his conviction for killing Teresa De Simone, 22, in Southampton in 1979 was quashed.

His legal team asked for exhibits to be re-examined in 1998 but the Forensic Science Service said none existed.

But last year, following a new request, DNA tests on material found at the scene proved it was not Mr Hodgson's.

His solicitor Julian Young said his client would be seeking an apology and compensation from the Forensic Science Service (FSS) and compensation from the Home Office.

The FSS said an internal inquiry was under way.

In a statement it said: "The FSS has a number of different storage facilities around the country.

"Each is used for different types of items - for instance one is used to keep items refrigerated.

Teresa De Simone
Teresa De Simone had been raped and strangled

"It is not known which of the storage facilities was checked when the request was made in 1998.

"However, when Hampshire police made their request for samples to be checked last year, the relevant material was found. "

Mr Young also branded a prison discharge fee given to his client after 27 years in custody of 46 as "astonishing".

"I find it hard to understand how anyone is expected to provide for themselves on this paltry sum," he added.

James Banks, chief executive of the Royal Courts of Justice advice bureau, which runs the Miscarriages of Justice Support Service, said the fee is standard every time a prisoner is released.

But Mr Hodgson would be offered help and advice to find accommodation and apply for crisis loans and benefits he may be eligible for.

"The discharge fee was recently reviewed and raised slightly but it is standard for anyone who is released from prison," Mr Banks added.

"Prisoners are also given help for them to travel back to their home town."

Mr Young said his client, who is originally from County Durham, was enjoying his first taste of freedom in almost three decades and said he was looking forward to seeing a home game at Sunderland Football Club.

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