THE NEXT generation of lawyers from the University of Limerick have been warned that miscarriages of justice still exist, by two men who were wrongly incarcerated for 32 years between them in British jails.
Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four, spent 15 years in prison for an IRA bombing campaign he had no involvement in. Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six, was wrongly jailed for 17 years for similar crimes. Both men, who addressed students at the University of Limerick this week, have accused the Irish and English governments of “washing their hands” of innocent Irish men and women who, they say, have either been framed or are currently rotting in jail.
“If what happened to us meant that no other innocent people were going to go to jail, in some way we could accept it – but unfortunately, it’s not that way,” said Mr Hill. “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,” he added.
Mr Conlon said he believed it was “really important to be invited down to the University of Limerick, to meet students who are going to become the legal brains of the country hopefully.
“Misrepresentation and bad representation by lawyers can be a major factor in miscarriages of justice. I was represented by the biggest law firm in London, and they sent me an out of work actor to act as my solicitor; he was a paralegal.
“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. Putting innocent people in prison can never be justified; it can never be right,” he said.
Although the scandals of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six cases have been known for over 30 years, they have been denied full access to the entire case files.