April 17, 2013 by amoolyarajappa
The Birmingham Pub bombings case is regarded as one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history. Paddy Joseph Hill, one of the victims of this injustice spent 16 years in prison before his release in 1991. In an email interview, he explains how his prison sentence destroyed him, both physically and mentally.
Photo credits: Gregor Smith
After two decades of being released after your wrongful conviction, have you finally managed to reconcile and move ahead in your life?
I have struggled throughout the years since my release. I have been diagnosed with Reactive Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the years of wrongful imprisonment. It is unlikely that I will ever resolve how I feel.
It is almost 22 years now since you were freed but do you really enjoy that sense of freedom?
No, I am not free. I live daily with the effects of what was done to me.
The Birmingham pub bombings case remains one of the gravest miscarriages of justices in British history. How did it affect you being a victim of this? (physically, mentally and psychologically)
It has destroyed my health physically and mentally.
Do you still suffer from nightmares and flashbacks (if yes, how appalling is it?) or have you emerged from them?
I am trapped in the experience. I am constantly back in prison in my head. It appears as real as it was physically being in prison. It is appalling. I along with others was a victim of state torture. I have never been properly treated, so I continue to suffer.
Up to today, what aspects of the trauma that you went through, still affect you the most- the prison/the police/the injustice/any other specific insecurity?
The entire British Justice system is rotten to the core. We were picked to suffer from the very highest offices in the UK Government. The Government is to blame, the judicial system is to blame, and the cops are to blame. They cannot be separated. We were used as scapegoats and suffered year upon year of torture at their hands. No one part can be separated out. My ordeal continues, so the affects are constant.
Post 1991, how difficult has it been for you to establish your innocence in society?
It is not hard; I am an innocent man as were the others wrongfully convicted, as were the Guilford Four and the Maguire Seven, along with the countless other who are victims of a miscarriage of justice. The people who carried out the crimes against us have never been brought to justice, so there are those who try to go along with the idea of no smoke without fire. These people are scum hiding behind a lie. The truth of our case has been hidden. There is a 75 year rule been placed on the release of the papers related to the ‘Irish cases’ to protect the criminals who fitted us up. This rule has been put in place to protect those in Government, the judiciary and the Police who took part in the fit up and rose through their profession as a reward for their actions.
How would you want to describe the torture that you underwent in the British prisons for 16 years?
I was in maximum security jails. I lived daily in a killing zone and had to live in such away to be able to survive. I can’t easily describe to you the horror.
You have claimed that the top men in IRA knew who the real bombers were. In that case, why do you think that you and the five others (Birmingham Six) were chosen to be framed?
Of course the IRA knew who did the bombings as did the security forces, and the government. Information was passed to the authorities by an IRA informant telling them they had the wrong people.
We were told directly by the Police who interrogated us. We were told we were hand picked at the highest level. We were chosen to placate the public feeling that was in the air at the time. They were at war and we were scapegoats to appease the fear and anger of the state, and the public.
The fact that you lied about your purpose of visit to Belfast to the police was used as strong evidence at the time of conviction. Why did you conceal the reason for your visit to Belfast?
This is not true. I never concealed anything. I along with the other were attending a funeral.
You have mentioned in one of your interviews, “Prison kills you emotionally”- Why do say that? Has prison changed the way you dealt with relationships earlier?
We were under constant attack in prison. In order to survive we had to condition ourselves to basically battle conditions in order to survive. This destroys you. Prison is designed to break you and it does break most people. Imagine the conditions we faced. I could not have gone through the prison system with out shutting down emotionally. I struggle to have relationships or have people close. I have a very understanding wife who is able to cope with my condition.
Previously you have also mentioned in one of the interviews that- “All I think about is killing the cops”- What makes you say that?
I say this because of the anger that I live with. I say this because of the failure of the justice system to bring them to book. I say this because they tortured me and the others. I want justice.
Did the two months of official trauma counseling in London help? If yes, in what way?
No it did not help in any way.
With regard to miscarriages of justice and innocent people in prison, do you think that the situation is better today in the British legal system than in your time?
No it is as bad or worse. There have been in the region of 6000 cases being quashed since my release. This does not take into account those still in prisons fighting for justice.
What made you set up an organization like MOJO? (Miscarriages of Justice Organization) What are its objectives?
We had none at first to listen to us, at first when we were in prison. When I was released I knew that I had left other innocent people behind. I swore to them that I would fight for them until they were free. Many have been freed, many continue to fight. MOJO is here to give a voice and hope to innocent people. Our objective is to support those in prison and to get support and care for those who have been freed.
You have also signed the e-petition to re-investigate the pub bombings. How do you think an initiative as this could help bring closure in this case?
The families of the 21 deserve truth and justice, as do we. The hope is that enough pressure is brought to bring the truth into the light.