Paddy Hill and Gerry Conlon say what happened to them is happening to others
By David Hennessy
Budding lawyers in the University of Limerick last week heard that miscarriages of justice still happen from two Irishmen who between them have served over 32 years in British jails.
Gerry Conlon and Paddy Hill accused both the British and Irish governments of “washing their hands” of innocent Irish men and women who are still behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit.
Gerry Conlon was one of the Guildford Four and spent 15 years in prison for an IRA bombing campaign he had no involvement in. Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed him in the film, In the Name of the Father.
Paddy Hill was one of the Birmingham Six and was wrongfully convicted of pub blasts, spending 17 years in jail.
After addressing law students at the university, Gerry Conlon said: “I think it’s really important to be invited down to Limerick University to meet students who are going to become the future legal brains of the country hopefully, misrepresentation and bad representation by lawyers can play a major factor in a miscarriage of justice.
“I was represented by the biggest law firm in London and they sent me an out of work actor called David Walsh to ask as my solicitor, he was a paralegal so it’s just trying to reinforce the experiences that we went through, the ongoing situation with other miscarriages of justice with people in prison that we’re advocating for: To keep this awareness.
“We can accept mistakes because human beings make mistakes, but when there’s a deliberate policy of ‘get someone, get anyone’ for a specific, horrific crime, that’s when we should all be frightened because if they’re putting innocent people such as The Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, The Mguires, The Tottenham Three, The Bridgewater Four, The Cardiff Three in jail for crimes they didn’t commit, they’re leaving killers on the streets and that’s an insult to the public.
“And we know the police do a hard job but they’re paid and they’re trained and they’re given a little bit of latitude in their lifestyle and we forego a lot of things when they make mistakes but putting innocent people in prison can never be justified, it can never be right.
“And it’s our duty to give them the best representation, to go in with a fair and open honest mind, not to be persuaded by politics or by the press into having an assumption before you go to defend someone and we need lawyers to go in to fight for people, to go into uphold what the judiciary is all about and that’s truth and justice.”
Paddy Hill added, speaking to The Irish Times: ““If what happened to us meant that no other innocent people were going to go to jail – in some way we could accept it and get on with it for a greater good – but unfortunately, it’s not that way.
“It’s turned out to be the exact opposite. More and more innocent people are going to prison. I don’t know how many are presently [before] the criminal cases review commission in England and Scotland [but] it’s just a ridiculous situation. The police keep telling the government it’s a democracy, we’re all in it together, etc, that we are all equal under the eyes of the law. It doesn’t work that way.”
The scandals that put both men behind bars have been known for more than 30 years but they have still been denied full access to case files.
Paddy Hill recently voiced his fears that two of the real Birmingham bombers received letters of immunity like the one that Hyde Park bomb suspect John Downey received- causing his trial to collapse.