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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May, 2005, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Killing bid conviction overturned
Paul Blackburn
Paul Blackburn hopes to take action against the police
A man who spent 25 years in prison for the attempted murder of a nine-year-old boy has had his conviction overturned.

Paul Blackburn, 41, of Warrington, Cheshire, was 15 years old when he was convicted at Chester Crown Court in December 1978.

Three appeal judges heard he had not received a fair trial and had been interviewed by police without a solicitor present.

An earlier appeal in 1981 was refused but he was freed on licence in 2003.

Outside court, Mr Blackburn said he was angry at the police officers who helped put him behind bars and hoped action could be taken against them.

I haven't been able to pick up the pieces and I don't know if I ever will be
Paul Blackburn

"I've always felt angry but what do you do with that?," he said.

"Do you destroy your own life by being angry all the time? You can't. I tried that while I was in prison... you know, it's so destructive and damaging.

"I haven't been able to pick up the pieces and I don't know if I ever will be."

Lord Justice Keene, Mr Justice Newman and Mr Justice Walker heard that his detention had been "clearly prolonged" by his persistent assertions that he was wrongly convicted.

He had been sentenced to life detention and subsequently spent 25 years in 18 different prisons.

'Officers lied'

He always protested his innocence and his case was sent back to the Court of Appeal by the independent Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

Officers who had interviewed Mr Blackburn at the time testified on oath that he had written his own statement.

But the judges said new linguistic evidence, which suggested police had been significantly involved in the statement's wording, led them to believe that the officers had lied.

Lord Justice Keane said: "We cannot escape the conclusion that they cannot have told the truth about the written confession."

Mr Blackburn should also have been told he was entitled to a solicitor and that the interview should have been carried out at a police station, rather than the school where Mr Blackburn was in care, the judges said.

Applause in court

He had been questioned for more than three hours without a break before he made an admission.

At the end of the ruling in the London courtroom, there was applause in court and Mr Blackburn was congratulated by well-wishers.

He said: "I'd rather there had been other evidence that had helped me out but the CCRC deal with technicalities and I've had to be satisfied with that.

"There are a lot of people still in prison who haven't won their cases."

Compensation claim

He said that a project was being set up to establish a retreat in Scotland where people who had been released following miscarriages of justice could start to repair their lives.

He added: "I don't know if I can put this behind me. Everyone who has been involved in cases like this before have been so damaged - it takes a long, long time."

Cheshire Constabulary refused to comment until senior officers had had chance to read the Court of Appeal's written judgement.

Mr Blackburn's solicitor Glyn Maddocks said he would claim for compensation.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Paul Blackburn's reaction following the appeal



SEE ALSO:
Miscarriages of justice fund call
05 Oct 04 |  Scotland


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