Gerry Conlon and Patrick Maguire among protesters outside parliament to highlight case of Sam Hallam, jailed for life in 2005
Victims of some of Britain's most notorious miscarriage of justice cases protested outside parliament today against budget cuts at the body which investigates disputed convictions. They claim that cases such as those of the young east Londoner Sam Hallam, who is serving life for murder, cannot be reinvestigated swiftly enough without the restoration of funding.
Paddy Hill and Billy Power of the Birmingham Six, Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four and Patrick Maguire of the Maguire Seven, along with Hallam's relatives and friends, handed in a petition on the subject. They claim that government spending cuts at the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) mean that innocent people are spending years in jail when their cases should be referred back to the court of appeal.
The campaigners are highlighting the case of 21-year-old Hallam, jailed for life in 2005 for the murder of Essayas Kassahun, a 21-year-old trainee chef, who was killed in 2004 in Finsbury, north-east London. Kassahun had come to the aid of a friend, Louis Colley, who was being attacked by a mob of youths over a trivial perceived insult. Among Hallam's other supporters are the actor Ray Winston, whose nephew and daughter know him.
Hallam was convicted on the basis of the disputed identification evidence of two witnesses who placed him at the scene of the murder. Hallam claimed that he was playing football with a friend at the time. Now his supporters say that there is fresh evidence which should lead to a successful appeal, but that the process is taking too long.
"Sam was a victim of bad luck and a ghastly sequence of events," said veteran campaigner Paul May, a leading light in the Birmingham Six campaign. "If you met him you would know that he is just not the kind of person to be involved in something like this." May said that Hallam, who was planning a career in the army at the time, was aware that there was going to be trouble on the night of the murder as a mob set off to look for Colley.