Past Caring about After-care

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 15th 2012)



Yusef Abdullahi was wrongly convicted in 1990 of the Valentine’s Day 1988 murder of Lynette White along with Stephen Miller and Tony Paris. John Actie and his cousin the late Ronnie Actie were acquitted. All five were vindicated in 2003 when Jeffrey Gafoor pleaded guilty to Lynette’s murder. It was the first time that this had happened in Britain through DNA testing.

The Miscarriages of Justice Project (MJP) was established that year after a Home Office Working Group had considered the issue, but their consultant misinterpreted his terms of reference and excluded anyone whose conviction was quashed on a first appeal. And if, like Colin Stagg, they had never been convicted at all, they were not even considered for help by the Working Group. The scheme – a limited advice service – was restricted to those referred back for appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, or an out of time appeal.


The Ministry of Justice funds the Miscarriage of Justice Support Service (MJSS) to help those who have had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal,” said the Minister of State at Ministry of Justice, Baron (Tom) McNally in a written response to Baron (John) Laird’s query.

The MJSS provides help with issues such as healthcare, accommodation, finance and relationships”, McNally wrote. “The MJSS’ funding has recently been extended for a further year to March 2012 and the Ministry of Justice is working with it to improve the support they provide”.

There is a slight problem with this response; it is not true. The remit and funding agreement of the MJSS does not allow it to help anyone whose conviction was quashed on an in-time first appeal and never had. It is restricted in who it helps and actually excludes the overwhelming ajority of victims of miscarriages of justice.

Fend for Themselves

Almost eight years ago I asked the Miscarriages of Justice Project as it was called then to go and visit Yusef Abdullahi and Tony Paris in Cardiff. They agreed, but reneged on the agreement, claiming that it would affect their funding and therefore ability to help others. It was an uncaring response from people whose job it was to provide care.


Abdullahi in particular really needed help then. It was the least he deserved, but instead he was left to fend for himself. The MJP decided that it could not help him, because he did not come under their remit, which has not been changed. They did not even point out the absurdity of not being permitted to provide help to demonstrably innocent people. They even had the cheek to ask me to recommend their service to others.


If he had asked for their help, he would have been referred to his local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) and they would have been advised that he would call and what to do, rather than receive help from those who had experience of these issues. What use is that? Abdullahi deserved the care he needed – nothing less.

Lord McNally really ought to have known this and the government should right this wrong without further delay. It is already too late for Abdullahi – he died last month aged just 49. Despite being vindicated Abdullahi had been excluded from receiving assistance from the MJSS. The same applies to Ronnie Actie and Phillip Skipper, neither of whom was convicted. They have other things in common. They were vindicated and died without reaching 50. They didn’t qualify for help either. Nor did Colin Stagg. What kind of system is this? What kind of way is this for society to treat its victims?

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