Robert Brown

In the last instalment of Ephems I wrote about the vicious practice of keeping prisoners serving life sentences locked up way beyond the end of their tariffs if they persist in maintaining their innocence—especially vicious in the case of those who are later found to have been innocent all along. Among others, I mentioned that ‘Robert Brown has been in jail for 25 years (despite the tariff of 15 years set at his trial) for allegedly murdering a woman in Manchester in 1977. His conviction relied mainly on his confession, allegedly made under police pressure and later retracted. As Marcel Berlins wrote in the Guardian (18 June 2002), "He could have been released many years ago, but he can’t or won’t get parole because he continues to assert his innocence." ‘ On 31 July the press reported that the Court of Appeal had refused to allow Robert Brown, an only son, out on bail so that he could take care of his mother who is gravely sick with a terminal illness. The Appeal Court judge declined to grant bail in advance of the hearing in October of his new appeal which everyone seems to agree has a very good chance of success. By then his mother may well have died. Meanwhile he has served 10 years in jail beyond the period which the trial judge set as the appropriate length of his sentence, because he continues to protest his innocence—probably because he is innocent. How much longer must we put up with this manifestly unjust practice, which seems to have no basis other than the reluctance of the system to admit that innocent people are sometimes wrongly convicted?