Wrongly jailed man freed after 27 years

BBC News: Conviction quashed after 27 years

A man has been freed after spending 27 years in jail for the murder of a woman who was strangled in her car in 1979. The man confessed to the crime, but was a serial confessor and pathological liar, facts which were disclosed at his trial, at which he pleaded not guilty, but he was found guilty. Blood found at the scene matched his blood group, but a third of the male population has either of the two possible blood groups.

Frankly, this is a disgrace. For a start, there was simply no evidence other than a retracted confession and forensic evidence which could have placed millions of other men at the scene. This could not happen today, of course, but there should be pre-trial filtering so that non-evidence cannot be presented to a court as evidence (retracted confessions have been a factor in many of the most notorious miscarriages of justice). Second, DNA evidence was first used only four years after his conviction. He could have been freed ten or fifteen years ago at least, if people had done their jobs properly.

It also brings into further question the principle that a man who denies that he committed a crime should be presumed unrehabilitated and thus unfit for parole. I thought this had been abolished after the Stephen Downing case, particularly after Susan May was released on parole while still denying having murdered her aunt; but she was alleged to have killed for money (other evidence suggests that it was a burglary), rather than for a sexual motive.

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