It is good that Sam Hallam is finally free after seven years of unjust incarceration. However, we are seeing yet another case of miscarriage of justice. Yet again the system has shamefully let down two sets of victims – the family of the murdered man and Hallam who spent time inside for a crime he did not commit.
The case, however, like that of Stefan Kiszko decades earlier highlights not just flaws in our criminal justice system, but systemic and malicious incompetence. So determined is the state to secure a conviction that the investigation is compromised. Hallam and Kiszko could easily have been cleared very early on in the investigations, but withheld evidence, whether through wilful malice or rank incompetence led to a jury being presented with incomplete and misleading evidence and subsequent conviction.
Trying to get an unjust conviction overturned is no mean feat. The state assumes infallibility from the outset. A jury has found the defendant guilty, so guilty he is, despite overwhelming evidence that the state does get it wrong and does so with remarkable and disturbing regularity – during the nineties for example, we saw a series of mothers being convicted wrongly on the basis of flawed (manufactured) evidence presented by a so-called expert and it took years to get justice and the wrongly convicted freed. Hallam has lost seven years of his life. Seven years he will never get back. Just as well we didn’t hang him, I guess… And don’t even get me started on a parole system that demands an innocent man show remorse for his crimes before he is eligible for parole. So, because he is innocent and cannot, he remains incarcerated – catch 22 indeed.
But, and this is the crucial point, will justice be done? Will those who withheld evidence from the defence and those who failed to properly investigate the evidence – not least the alibi – face consequences? At the very least these people should be facing charges for perverting the course of justice. And if convicted, should serve a minimum of seven years each. How likely is that?
What is, however, an absurd juxtaposition is that on the same day that Hallam was released from incarceration caused by police incompetence, the police themselves were barracking the home secretary, claiming that she is a disgrace. They may well be right. However, glass houses, stones, kettles and pots do spring to mind. I for one, do not respect the police force as I once did. They are a part of the state apparatus and that for me is the enemy to be viewed with suspicion at all times and never to be trusted. While people like Sam Hallam continue to be convicted as a consequence of police incompetence, malice and corruption, this will continue to be the case.
The state is not your friend.