2020-01-13 10:37:36 UTC
officers lied at his trial, even after the now-retired appeal court judge who
quashed the conviction told the Guardian that the force should say sorry.
Cheshire police said that while they were “concerned” at the wrongful
jailing of Paul Blackburn, who was convicted as a teenager in 1978 for the
attempted murder and sexual assault of a young boy, no apology was needed as
procedures at the time of the investigation were “very different”.
Blackburn, then in a reform school in Warrington, Cheshire, was arrested
shortly after he turned 15. The only notable evidence against him was a
confession he signed after four hours of questioning by two senior officers,
with no parent or lawyer present.
The appeal court, which quashed the conviction in 2005
(https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/may/25/ukcrime), two years after
Blackburn was released on license, said the police claim he wrote the
confession unaided “can now be seen to have been untrue” after linguistic
analysis showed it was littered with police jargon almost certainly unknown
to a poorly-educated teenager.The ruling
(http://netk.net.au/UK/Blackburn.pdf)said this cast doubt on other police
The Guardian covered Blackburn’s case for its Justice on Trial series
convicted)in 2009. Infollow-up interviews recorded for the Today in Focus
spend-25-years-jail-for-crime-didnt-commit), the lead appeal court judge, Sir
David Keene, recalled it as “a shocking case”.
Keene, who is now retired and thus able to speak publicly for the first time,
said the evidence about Blackburn’s confession was “manifestly absurd”
and that the police should apologise.
“In the light of the findings of our court about the way in which some of
the officers of that force had lied at trial, leading to a wrongful
conviction, I would have thought it would have been appropriate for them to
apologise,” he said.
When asked about Keene’s view, assistant chief constable Matt Burton said
the Cheshire police would not do so, despite accepting the appeal court
decisions. Burton said the force was “satisfied that we do not need to
reopen the investigation”, an apparent intimation they still believe
Blackburn was responsible.
“An independent investigation into the conduct of the officers involved in
this case was also undertaken in 1996 which concluded that there was no
evidence of any misconduct nor was there any evidence to pursue criminal
proceedings against the officers concerned,” Burton said.
“This case was investigated more than 40 years ago, at a time when the
procedures and rules around the questioning of suspects and the submission of
evidence were very different to that of today.”
Blackburn’s ordeal in more than a dozen prisons over his sentence was made
even worse by his refusal to accept the protection offered to sex offenders
because he maintained his innocence.
Over his first 15 years in jail, Blackburn said, he endured “beatings on a
daily basis, abuse on a daily basis, spit on a daily basis”, adding: “The
first time I was placed on report officially by a prison officer, was for
refusing a direct order to mop my own blood up off the floor.”
Blackburn was later assisted by older, more educated prisoners, who helped
him push for an appeal. While he has worked since his release to highlight
other miscarriages of justice, Blackburn has described how he still struggles
to cope with the trauma of his experiences in prison.
“I still get quite distressed, on a daily basis, replaying things over and
over again,” he said. “You’re standing there doing the ironing, and all
of a sudden your in Full Sutton [jail], in the punishment block. Different
things will set me off – uniforms, keys, all this sort of thing.”
Some semblance of stability has been brought by marriage, and by compensation
Blackburn was awarded after the appeal – though changes to the system made
under the 2010 coalition government means it would be unlikely he would be
awarded this now.