The United States has a long history of wrongfully convicting and imprisoning people only to release them after years in prison after new evidence emerges. It has just happened in the U.K. too.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
Since 1989, the U.S. courts have freed 225 innocent people from years — sometimes decades — in prison after new evidence from DNA testing overturned their wrongful convictions. It happens in Britain too.
On Wednesday Andrew Malkinson, 56, walked out of the Royal Courts of Justice in London after the Appeals Court overturned his conviction after DNA testing showed another man was the rapist.
Consortium News was outside the courthouse when Malkinson emerged as a free man. Here is his dramatic statement, as well as remarks from his mother and his attorney. Malkinson said he was given an additional ten years in prison for refusing to make a false confession.
Full press conference from Consortium News:
‘They Didn’t Believe Me’
Malkinson said the police destroyed evidence in the case — most of the clothing of the rape victim. A piece of her clothing was eventually recovered and tested. Malkinson said the traumatized rape victim, possibly with the “help” of the police wrongly picked him out of police lineup.
“I came to the police station in 2003. I told the officers I was innocent – they didn’t believe me.
I came to the Crown Court in Manchester in 2004. I told the jury I was innocent – they didn’t believe me.
I came to this appeal court in 2006 and told them I was innocent – they didn’t believe me.
I applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which is supposed to investigate miscarriages of justice and told them I was innocent.
They didn’t investigate and they didn’t believe me. Not once, but twice.
Today we told this court I was innocent and finally they listened, but I have been innocent all along for each of those 20 years that came before today. Nothing that any police officer, court or commission said about me since 2003 changed that reality.
You are here to gather news, that declaration from the bench behind me is not news to me. When a jury finds you guilty when you are innocent, reality does not change. You know you did not commit the crime. But all the people around you start living in a false fantasy universe and treat you as if you are guilty: the police, prison officers, probation officers, prisoners, journalists, judges.
As a minority of one you are forced to live their false fantasy. On August 2, 2003, I was kidnapped by the State. It has taken nearly 20 years to persuade my kidnappers to let me go.
Seventeen years, four months and 16 days of that time was spent in prison.
All that time the real perpetrator, the real dangerous person was free.”
“You’re asking an innocent man to make a false confession – a false confession in the guise of therapy,” said Malkinson. “They said, ‘There’s no other way here. You’ll probably die in prison’.
“I said, ‘I didn’t do it, and I’m not going to pretend I did’. “I’m not going to lie and I’m not going to protect them by making a false confession.”
Malkinson’s solicitor, Emily Bolton, told reporters:
“Let’s be clear on what has happened: Greater Manchester Police caused an innocent man to be wrongly imprisoned for over 17 years. They withheld crucial evidence, denying Andy a fair trial. They then unlawfully destroyed key exhibits, nearly denying him the DNA test results which have established his innocence beyond any doubt.
Greater Manchester Police also utterly let down the victim of this brutal crime. Their deeply flawed investigation failed to bring to justice her real attacker, compromising public safety in the process.
The public deserves better. The police must face full accountability for their actions. …
The truth is this case is an indictment of both the Court of Appeal and the Criminal Cases Review Commission. These so-called ‘safety nets’ in our justice system missed three earlier opportunities to put this obvious miscarriage of justice right.’
Malkinson was convicted by a majority jury. Unlike in the U.S., an unanimous jury in a criminal case is not required.
Asked by Consortium News if Malkinson is likely to be compensated, Bolton replied:
“The compensation regime in this country is completely backward. You are required to prove your innocence to the regime in order to be compensated. It will be years before Andy receives anything. But in that regard, and I will say actually, I consider compensation in this context to be a dirty word.
You cannot compensate Andy for what he’s been through. How much would you have to be paid to spend 17 years in prison with a conviction like this? You wouldn’t do it. There is no amount of money that could compensate. Andy Malkinson for what he’s been through. So let’s not call it compensation, let’s call it support to rebuild his shattered life.”
The BBC added further details:
“For a start, he looked nothing like the e-fit image of the suspect drawn up with the help of the victim.
The woman had left a deep scratch on her attacker’s face. There was no evidence Mr Malkinson had been injured – none of his workmates had seen it – nor was there DNA or other forensic evidence to link him to the victim or location.”
“He was taller than how the attacker was described – and he also had prominent tattoos on his forearms that the victim had not mentioned.
Instead, she recalled a man who had a Bolton accent and a shiny hairless chest. ‘[The police] made a big show of building up to this,’ Mr Malkinson recalls.
‘I lifted my chest to show them. It was considerable growth. I’d never shaved my chest in my life. But they just proceeded, brushed it aside and barrelled on.’
Then, when he voluntarily agreed to take part in an identity parade, the victim picked him out. …
The Court of Appeal dismissed a challenge against his conviction in 2006.
He then applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – an independent body that examines potential miscarriages of justice.
It rejected his case twice, but his team says the commission could have carried out new DNA analysis and reviewed the police’s files.
Appeal then launched legal action against GMP, demanding to see those files.
Ultimately, it was the charity’s work – not the CCRC’s or GMP’s – that identified the new DNA evidence in March 2021, thanks to advances in the science.
The crucial sample had been found on the victim’s vest top.
The National DNA Database then matched the profile to a man who had been added to it in 2012.”
Sarah Jackson, Greater Manchester Police’s assistant chief constable later on Wednesday released this apology to Malkinson and the rape victim:.
“We are truly sorry to Mr Malkinson that he is the victim of such a grave miscarriage of justice, in being convicted of a crime he did not commit and serving a 17-year custodial sentence. Whilst we hope this outcome gives him a long overdue sense of justice, we acknowledge that it does not return the years he has lost. I have offered to meet with him to personally deliver this apology.”
Kate Green, a Greater Manchester deputy mayor, called for an investigation. “This is a shocking miscarriage of justice, and I would urge Government – as I will be doing with Greater Manchester Police and local criminal justice partners – to look at this case in close detail to examine what lessons need to be learnt across the criminal justice system to prevent another innocent person having to go through something like this again.”
Lord Justice Timothy Holyrode, the same High Court judge who in October 2021 presided over the U.S.’s victorious appeal against Julian Assange’s release from extradition, is seen here releasing Malkinson.
At the end of the press conference Malkison was captured on Sky News raising his fist in support of two Assange protestors who had come to the court for an unrelated demonstration ahead of Assange’s final U.K. hearing in the same courthouse at a date yet to be determined.
Two mates from Team Assange London were protesting outside Royal Courts of Justice when a man who had been wrongly convicted was set free after 17 years in jail. He turned and saw the Free Assange sign and held up his fist. It was on all the news stations#FreeAssangeNOW pic.twitter.com/h5SADj6NtV
— ?? ??? alimay #FreeAssange? (@alimay101234) July 27, 2023
Wikipedia lists dozens of such cases of wrongful convictions in the United States dating back to 1805, including several in recent years in which DNA testing played a decisive role. Since the 1970s, at least 123 people were on death row when their convictions were overturned.
Wikipedia lists 40 of the most prominent instances in Britain, including the wrongful convictions of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven in the Guildford pub bombings of 1974.
Unlike other cases of wrongful conviction, there was no racial or political motives on the part of the authorities.
Without a full, impartial investigation it remains only to speculation to try to understand why the police arrested Malkinson and then destroyed evidence, why prosecutors railroaded him into prison and why the system failed him for so long in his repeated attempts to achieve justice.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe