Prisoner accuses police of letting him 'rot in jail'

ONE OF Britain's longest-serving prisoners yesterday accused police and the Home Office of lying and letting him 'rot in jail' for the past 21 years.

Paul Cleeland, who has protested his innocence of the 1972 shotgun murder of a colleague, made the claim in an emotional outburst as he passed the first hurdle in his High Court fight to clear his name. He was given the go-ahead to pursue a judicial review, which he hopes will expose the injustice he says he has suffered.

Cleeland, now 50, has always maintained that he was framed for the killing of Terry Clarke. A series of anomolies in the case have aroused concern - the murder was witnessed by Mr Clarke's wife, who gave a description which bore no resemblance to Cleeland; three experts suggested that the ancient weapon, said to have been used by Cleeland, could not have caused the dead man's injuries; Cleeland records at Wandsworth jail in south London, were altered in a way which may have affected his first appeal in 1976; John McCafferty, the 'expert' who gave damning firearms evidence, turned out to have no formal qualifications in forensic chemistry; and an investigation into Cleeland's allegation of perjury against police officers and Mr McCafferty, now dead, carried out by E J Boothby, then an assistant chief constable of Northamptonshire, has remained secret.

It is over the Boothby report, that Cleeland is now seeking his judicial review. He is challenging a magistrate's decision not to issue a summons under common law against Mr Boothby, alleging misconduct by a public official. Cleeland is seeking to argue that Mr Boothby failed to carry out a full inquiry because he did not obtain a trial transcript.

Cleeland has been in jail for so long because of the sentence review system which dictates that those who maintain their innocence do not qualify for early parole because they are not facing up to their offences. He believes there is resistance to re-opening his case because to cast doubt on scientific evidence given by Mr McCafferty could lead to a review of other notorious cases in which he was involved.