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(en) Freedom 6321 Nov 2nd 2002 - Hope amidst despair

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 22 Nov 2002 04:37:42 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

The newly inaugurated National Miscarriage of Justice Day
took place on 12th October. The first ever gathering to mark
the event was held in Liverpool, with over a hundred people in
attendance. Families, friends and supporters of the wrongfully
imprisoned came along to share an afternoon of despair,
disbelief, solidarity and, eventually, hope. Half a dozen
dedicated speakers highlighted specific cases, and held the
packed auditorium spellbound with finely detailed accounts of
state, police and judicial corruption, lies, manipulation and
There were scores more campaigners present, each one with
heartbreaking stories to tell - unfortunately far too many to
instance here. In terms of attendance, this was essentially an
audience from the North West, suggesting that there must be
thousands of similar occurrences up and down the country.
To say that miscarriages of justice run to epidemic
proportions is no exaggeration.
Michael Davies from the M25 Three and the mother of
Michael Hickey, from the Bridgewater Four, were there, as
was Don Hale, the campaigner who finally saw Stephen
Downing declared innocent of the 'Bakewell Tart' killing. So
too were Barbara Stone, the sister of Michael Stone (jailed for
the murders of Lyn and Megan Russell), and Paddy Hill of the
Birmingham Six.
All of them spoke eloquently and passionately about the
disastrous happenings which had overtaken them and
members of their families. Each spoke convincingly about the
unseen horrors taking place inside the British justice system.
For example, there was the ruthless skullduggery surrounding
the conviction of Michael Stone, as related by his sister.
Barbara Stone has never doubted her brother's innocence. It's
a view shared by many legal minds close to the case, despite
the fact that Michael lost a recent appeal for a retrial. For
anyone unfamiliar with the circumstances of his conviction
(for what were unquestionably heinous killings), there was
scant or no material evidence linking him to the crime. He
was pronounced guilty almost entirely on the false disclosures
of an informant he'd shared a prison cell with while on
remand. It was the lies of this grass that cost Michael Stone
his freedom.
One day after Michael's conviction, Barbara Stone got a
request from this inmate. Out of the blue he asked her to go
and see him, and a visit was duly arranged. The stool-pigeon
admitted to her unequivocally that he'd told lies, not only
about Michael, but about several other prisoners as well -
information for which agents of the state had rewarded him
The grass gave Barbara names, many names, and said he'd
had a bellyfull of stitching people up at the behest of the
prosecuting regimes. Now, he said, he wanted to come clean.
Above all, he wanted to set the record straight where Michael
Stone was concerned.
Barbara was jubilant. At last she'd got the truth from the lips
of the man whose connivance with police had put her brother
behind bars, perhaps for the rest of his life. It would surely be
only a matter of due process and a reasonable amount of time
before an enormous wrong would be acknowledged, reversed
and put right. Don't you believe it.
Three weeks after Barbara Stone's visit, at which he sang with
all the virtuosity of a cage-full of canaries, the grass was
silenced. He was dead, found hanging in a cell ill-equipped for
acts of suicide. Perhaps wisely, Barbara Stone refrained in
Liverpool from outright speculation. She would only say, "I
wish I could tell you he had committed suicide. I can't. I wish
I could tell you he didn't commit suicide. I can't. You will
have to draw your own conclusions."
And that, for the present, remains the awful predicament
weighing down on Michael Stone, just one among hundreds,
possibly even thousands, of victims of miscarriages of justice,
UK-style. As another long-term innocent martyr of the British
state, Michael Hickey, said on his acquittal, "being in prison
for something you didn't do is like being deaf, dumb and
blind." In other words, nobody's listening.
Tellingly, amidst the unusually hushed Liverpool gallery,
there were no MPs, journalists from the mainstream media,
police or other representatives of the system to explain why
things go so very badly wrong, and so often (actually, it
mostly begins and ends with police fit-ups). Nobody was there
to tell us what they were doing to put things right.
None of the victims we heard about had ever received even
the semblance of an apology for the nightmares they and their
loved ones had been dragged through. This of itself, in an era
noteworthy for its endemic, ritual establishment malpractice,
is bad enough (though perhaps only to be expected, given the
class basis of society in general).
Infinitely more depressing was the almost total lack of an
anarchist presence, or even (it seems) an anarchist interest in
this, the first National Miscarriage of Justice Day - even
though it had been publicised in Freedom beforehand.
Surely anarchists understand better than most what depths
the state and police are capable of plumbing to achieve their
ends? So what keeps us at arms length, instead of embracing
worthy and needy causes like this? Anarchists simply must
leave their enclaves, step outside the debating rooms and
engage with people when and where they are really hurting.
Miscarriages of justice are nothing new. More worryingly,
they're clearly on the increase. The next victim could be a
reader of this newspaper - it's happened more than once in the
past. Give it some thought.
Frankie Dee

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