On 24 May 2005, our friend Paul Blackburn’s conviction was ruled unsafe, and was overturned. His ordeal, by this stage, had lasted 27 years.
Paul was wrongfully accused, and ultimately convicted, of the attempted rape and attempted murder of a nine-year old boy in June 1978. At the time, Paul was fourteen years old and had experienced a difficult childhood.
Paul was first interviewed by the police, days after turning fifteen, outwith the presence of a solicitor, or indeed a responsible adult.
Paul was not the only police suspect, nor was he the only youth who confessed to the crime during police interviews. Another three individuals made confessions that were eventually retracted.
On 18 December 1978, Paul was convicted at Cheshire Crown Court and sentenced to life imprisonment on the charge of attempted murder, and two years on the charge of attempted rape, to run concurrently.
In prison, Paul found himself much younger than the other inmates, many of whom were imprisoned for the most gravely serious of offences.
A protracted appeal process followed. First, before the original trial judge and later before a full court in 1981. Both appeals were refused.
After being petitioned by Paul in 1995, the Secretary of State refused to grant leave to appeal and in doing so did not refer the case back to the Court of Appeal.
Paul was released on licence in March of 2003. Like many of our service users, his sentence was lengthened and release from prison was delayed due to his refusal to admit guilt for a crime he had not committed.
In August 2004, his case was reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, who referred the case to the Court of Appeal.
Two years after his release on licence, the conviction was ruled to be unsafe, and was overturned.
At appeal, a forensic psychologist spoke to how coerced confessions can be manipulated from young and vulnerable individuals through a prolonged interrogation process. It was found that the police were heavily involved in the wording of Paul’s statement and that the length of questioning was excessive. The lack of parent, guardian, or solicitor present, alongside the denial of his entitlement to seek legal advice or some such individuals present were also factors in the eventual quashing of Paul’s conviction.
The court ruled that Paul’s manipulated confession should never have been admissible.
Paul has received no apology from the police force whose officers’ misconduct was instrumental in his wrongful conviction and imprisonment. More information on Cheshire Police’s decision that no apology is needed can be found HERE.