PRESS RELEASE: 2nd June 2005
PAUL BLACKBURN: Conviction quashed after 27 years but Paul Blackburn must still struggle to survive.
2nd June 2005
Paul Blackburn had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal on 25th May, following a 27 year long battle with the State which began when he was convicted at the age of 15.
by L A Naylor
Paul Blackburn was convicted in December 1978 for the attempted murder of a nine-year-old boy. He had been interrogated for 4 hours without a solicitor present, and alleges that he would have confessed to anything given the oppressive nature of the officers questioning. Blackburn did not match the description of the attacker and there was no forensic evidence to connect him to the brutal crime, which had been committed in broad daylight. He spent 25 years in prison - ten years longer than the usual 'tariff' for murder because he refused to admit his guilt. The conviction was finally quashed on 25th May, 2 years after he was released on license.
For Blackburn, as has been the case with many miscarriage of justice victims, the overwhelming impact of finally overturning his conviction has just begun. There is still no organised aftercare system to help him adjust. As he says, 'I've got my body out of jail but that's about it. I've not got the rest of me out of jail.'
How does he begin to come to terms with the horrendous trauma of being wrongfully incarcerated for 25 years? Blackburn suffered monstrous physical and emotional injuries as a result: endless years of assaults, beatings, the deprivation of food, sleep and the terror of being killed whilst unsuccessfully trying to overturn the conviction. He became an expert at masking his pain in order to survive.
So is it any wonder that by now, he can't make head or tail of what happened in the Court of Appeal just 10 days ago? The criminal identity that was forced upon him for 27 years cannot be magically erased, though he knows he is innocent of the crime. After mentally isolating himself from everything, for years at a time, how and why should he break such ingrained coping strategies, in order to adapt to the outside world?
Blackburn may have overturned his conviction, but he must still struggle to survive. He will struggle to learn to feel things that most of us are lucky enough to take for granted everyday: being close to and able to trust someone; having a place in society and somewhere to call home; a sense of what you are - dignity and hope. Instead, Blackburn has been robbed of everything and the scars run to the core of his being.
© L.A.Naylor 2009. All rights reserved.