A DUBLINER who lost everything after two decades behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit is to sue the British Government.
Victor Nealon spent 17 years in a British prison after his wrongful conviction in January 1997 for the attempted rape of a woman leaving a nightclub in Redditch.
News that he has lodged a compensation claim with the Ministry of Justice came as he received an apology for the missed clues that kept him from being freed.
But despite repeated attempts to have his case reviewed, it was not until December last year that the 53-year-old had his conviction quashed.
The former postman was turned down twice by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, a body responsible for examining miscarriages of justice.
He was only freed after his defence team discovered key evidence that police failed to disclose at the time of his initial trial.
“I have lost friends, I lost a partner, I lost my job, I have lost anything I ever had in my life prior to going to prison,” Mr Nealon told the BBC. "I could have been out at least 10 to 12 years ago but, on account of the CCRC and their failure to research a paper trail, I remained in prison.”
The CCRC said it should have investigated the Irishman’s case more thoroughly.
"I regret the fact in this particular case we missed something and I apologise to all concerned for the fact we did so,” said commission chairman Richard Foster.
The apology came as a part of a BBC investigation into the CCRC for the File on 4 programme.
Mr Nealon’s lawyer, Mark Newby, told The Irish Post that the CCRC made “very serious errors” in Mr Nealon’s case that led to him being kept in jail for more than a decade when there was sufficient evidence to free him.
He added that Mr Nealon is still waiting for the Ministry of Justice to say whether or not it will contest his compensation claim.
“The test now for compensation is whether or not you can show beyond a reasonable doubt that the person did not commit the offence and clearly there is evidence of that in this case,” the solicitor said.
“I think he has a good claim and that the Secretary of State should compensate him.”
In the BBC documentary, Mr Nealon speaks of the “devastating” impact his wrongful conviction has had on his life. He says it has left him “thrown on the streets after 17 years with no money and nowhere to go”.
Mr Nealon was living in Redditch, in the West Midlands, when he was found guilty of the attempted rape at Hereford Crown Court.
He received a discretionary life sentence and an appeal in 1998 was unsuccessful. He was then denied parole because he refused to admit his guilt.
Mr Nealon’s initial trial was told that DNA tests had produced no significant results.
His two subsequent applications to the CCRC for details of the forensic reports, in 1998 and 2002, were rejected.
In the documentary Mr Nealon is deeply critical of the commission’s “face value” acceptance of claims by West Mercia Police that its file on his case had gone missing.
After it emerged that police failed to disclose items of clothing belonging to the victim, Mr Nealon’s legal team appealed for further tests to be carried out. They revealed DNA samples of another, unknown man.
The CCRC then undertook further tests before referring Mr Nealon’s case to the Court of Appeal, where it was quashed on December 13, 2013.
Mr Nealon said more miscarriages of justice would happen if the CCRC did not learn from its failure to probe police paperwork in his case.
“These are people who are the last resort for people like myself because I was told by the prison authorities that I would never be freed unless I admitted guilt and I depended upon people in that position to research paperwork and they didn’t do it,” he added.
West Mercia Police said it is studying the Court of Appeal’s judgment and reviewing the original case against him.
The Irish Post contacted Mr Nealon who said he did not wish to add any further comments.