Page last updated at 21:09 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 22:09 UK

Freed man attacks justice system

It has emerged that Ian Lawless suffered from a personality disorder

A man who spent eight years in jail for a murder he did not commit has criticised the British justice system after returning to his home in Grimsby.

Ian Lawless, 47, saw his conviction for killing retired sea captain Alf Wilkins in 2001 quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Judges ruled it was unsafe after hearing fresh medical evidence about his mental condition at the time.

Mr Lawless said: "It's wrong how it takes five minutes to convict you and 10 years to clear you."

He was jailed for life in 2002 after confessing to the murder of the sea captain in Grimsby.

I should never have been put on trial but it's the way the British justice system works
Ian Lawless

Speaking outside his home on the Yarborough estate, where he was greeted by family and friends, Mr Lawless said: "I'm delighted but I shouldn't have been in prison in the first place.

"I should never have been put on trial but it's the way the British justice system works.

"It wasn't a confession. There was no evidence whatsoever. The police picked and chose what they wanted to hear."

He added: "The British Justice System stinks.

"I've lost some good friends while I've been in jail."

Mr Lawless said the first thing he would do on Wednesday would be to visit the grave of his mother, who had campaigned for his release.

Personality disorder

Earlier, he walked free at the Royal Courts of Justice, supported by his legal team and members of his family, including his daughter Laura Jayne.

His solicitor Mark Newby said the case highlighted the dangers of vulnerable people being pushed through the court process "without putting the necessary safeguards in place".

Mr Lawless and another man were convicted in 2002 of firebombing Mr Wilkins's flat after wrongly suspecting him of being a paedophile.

Alf Wilkins
Alf Wilkins and his dog Lucky died in the blaze

Mr Lawless's case had been referred to the Court of Appeal for review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, an independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

The judges heard that at the time of his confession Mr Lawless had a "pathological need for attention".

Lord Justice Richards, sitting with Mrs Justice Gloster and Mrs Justice Dobbs, said the court was satisfied that if the jury had heard the new medical evidence at the trial "it might have affected their assessment of the reliability of the various confessions made by the appellant".

The court heard Mr Lawless had made various "confessions" to third parties, including regulars in a pub and a taxi driver.

He said he was the "lookout" in the attack, but he denied any involvement in police interviews and in court.

It has since emerged that he suffered from a personality disorder and that his need for attention was exacerbated when drinking.

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