Pure elation for Sam Hallam rights campaigners – but they still seek an apology
Charlie Cooper is Health Correspondent for The Independent, i, and The Independent on Sunday, writing on the NHS, medical advances, and international health. Since joining the papers as an editorial assistant, he has been nominated for young journalist of the year at both the Press Awards and the British Journalism Awards.
Thursday 17 May 2012
"Sam's free!" they shouted down their phones as the news came in.
Among his friends, family and supporters who had gathered at the community centre that served as their base for a hard-fought campaign to free Sam Hallam, the mood was of pure elation.
His case inspired marches, public art and even a play, and many of those who supported him arrived yesterday afternoon to celebrate his release. The actors who played Mr Hallam and his family in a production at the King's Head Theatre; the web designer who projected his picture on a wall in Hoxton Square; the rights campaigners who fought tirelessly to get his case reinvestigated – they were all there.
Later the party moved on to the nearby Lion and Lamb pub – a stone's throw from where Mr Hallam grew up – and when he arrived to huge cheers, brothers, friends, aunts and uncles all rushed to greet him. A cousin who had been a baby when he went to prison was introduced to him, now a girl of seven or eight. Friends lined up to buy him a drink. All paid tribute to his courage over seven hard lonely years.
"The boy never once complained," said John Rudder, 29, who has known Sam and his brothers since they were boys. "He has been the strongest of the lot of us."
His family members, however, had a united message for the Metropolitan Police and the court system that put Mr Hallam behind bars. "The family deserves an apology," said his cousin, Charlotte Cohen, 32. "People have had their lives ruined. We are going to move on and rise above it. But 18 to 24 are the best years of your life and Sam will never have them back."
Mr Hallam, still in shock at his extraordinary day, said he had no words to describe how he felt. But he can afford to take his time to gather his thoughts. For the first time in seven years Sam Hallam has a future to start planning for.
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