Victims of judicial miscarriages given aid to rejoin society

The Government will announce today the establishment of a new support service for the scores of victims of miscarriages of justice, acknowledging that such people are often bereft of state help.

The Home Office is likely to reveal that a specialist unit will be based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the scene of many triumphant acquittals at the Court of Appeal.

Staff at the new unit, publicly funded but run by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NACAB), will advise freed prisoners on how to find a place to live and gain access to work or state benefits.

The development follows a succession of cases where high-profile victims of miscarriages have ended up destitute. Because they have been cleared of their offences they are not entitled to the probation service support given to other released prisoners.

A Home Office working group that has been studying the problem for nearly two years has found that about 20 victims of such miscarriages are being freed each year. About 80 per cent of convictions referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission are overturned.

Michael Hickey – who wrongly served 18 years for the 1978 murder of the newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater – says that he stole a ring from a jewellery shop four months after being freed to highlight his predicament. "I did it to say I've been given no money, nowhere to live. What am I supposed to do?" he told a court.

The victims of miscarriages of justice are often unable to find work because employers are distrustful, some cannot sign on with a doctor because they lack papers, and many have profound psychological problems after years prison.

Gerry Conlon, one of the men wrongly convicted of the Guildford pub bombings of 1974, was found to have irreversible post-traumatic stress syndrome after his release.

Paddy Hill, who served 16 years as one of the falsely convicted Birmingham Six, was incensed by the lack of support he received after release and set up the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (Mojo) to campaign for others. In its literature, Mojo says: "Innocent people are being dumped out of the court of appeal like sacks of garbage, all suffering from severe post-traumatic stress syndrome, without counselling or any psychological help."

Mr Hill has highlighted cases including that of Paddy Nicholls, who was released from prison aged 70 after being wrongly convicted of the murder of a friend and having served 23 years. Barely able to walk because of a stroke and with nowhere to live, he went to live with Mr Hill.

The decision to set up a new unit is a victory for the Chris Mullin, the chairman of the Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee who campaigned for the release of the Birmingham Six and who has raised the issue of the lack of support for wrongly convicted prisoners.

NACAB has offered to provide support for the unit, including help with benefit claims and budgeting needs. The office at the Royal Courts of Justice would liaise with citizens advice bureaux around the country. Assistance would be offered as soon as a case was referred to the Court of Appeal.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links