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20 years on, I'm still not free; Victim of one of the UK's worst miscarriages of justice cannot move on from the trauma.

Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six, wrongly imprisoned for the pub bombings that devastated the city.


PADDY Hill frowns as he reflects on the 16 years he spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Even now, twenty years since his eventual release, the 66-year-old is still battling to come to terms with it all.

Along with Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter, Billy Power and Johnny Walker, Hill was sentenced to life in prison for what was held to be his part in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings. The conviction, as time would tell, was unsafe. After three appeals, the discrediting of confessions and forensic evidence led to the Crown withdrawing most of its case against the men, who walked free.

Infamous It has since become one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice in the world.

"When I look back, getting out 20 years ago, little did I realise I was going from one nightmare to another," says Hill.

"I've been fighting for help for years, not just for myself, but for others to get the help we need.

"The establishment is well aware of the damage that is done to people by long-term incarcaration, irrespective of their innocence or guilt.

"They know that even the guilty are traumatised. That's why they have their own programme for long-term prisoners coming out. They just don't release them there and then. They put them through a programme. It takes between two and four years as they slowly take them out of the prison.

"You're taking a small bit of prison out of them, and putting back in a bit of the outside world."

In two weeks' time Hill will receive the first official help he has had to handle the trauma of his wrongful incarceration.

He has a month's treatment in a top private clinic after a hard-fought battle with his local NHS trust.

But he is sceptical about just how much can be done to repair his battered psyche.

"I don't hope for anything," he adds. "In two weeks I'm going to the Capio Nightingale Hospital in London, where I'll be in the care of the trauma centre run by Professor Gordon Turnbull, who counselled the Beirut hostages after they were freed.

"He is one the leading psychiatrists in the world for this kind of thing. He has dealt with soldiers and worked for the American Government with the Vietnam veterans.

"But I've learned for the past not to hope for anything. I'll take it as it comes. I'm a bit apprehensive because I can't see how they are going to undo nearly 40 years of trauma in 28 days."

The IRA has never apologised for the Birmingham attack, a fact that has angered the families of victims.

Although the IRA denied that it was involved in the bombings two days after the event - and has never formally admitted responsibility - former IRA chief of staff Joe Cahill acknowledged the IRA's role in 1985.

And 30 years after the atrocity Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fin, expressed his regrets about the bombings and the huge loss of life and injuries that were inflicted on the Second City.

Hill declines to be drawn into the argument, pointing out the Birmingham Six deserve their own apology from the British authorities.

Paddy, who now lives in the west of Scotland, said: "The British Government never apologised to us.

"More than that, the Birmingham Six case is one of the very few criminal cases where the Establishment has slapped a 75-year secrecy order on the documentation.

"Our papers are not allowed to be seen for 75 years. Maggie Thatcher's war diaries were given out after 20 years. They are still trying to cover it up."

Since being released, Hill has campaigned to help others he believes have been wrongly convicted.

His group, the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, staged an event yesterday at the Glasgow Film Theatre to mark the 20 years since the Birmingham Six were released.

Response "The day was a great day," he says. "We showed the Who Bombed Birmingham film (the Granada TV documentary which re-enacted the bombings and subsequent key events in the campaign to free the six men).

"We had a great response from people and a great crowd. I made a speech, along with a few others, and we had a question and answer session.

"Even though it is 20 years after our release, what happened to us is still happening today.

"The system now is a hell of a lot worse than in our day. There's a hell of a lot more innocent people in prison today than there was 20-odd years ago. "I will keep campaigning, although I'm getting a bit long in the tooth for all this rushing around."


START OF NEW NIGHTMARE: The Birmingham Six, including Paddy Hill (second left), walk free with campaigner Chris Mullin (wearing scarf). (Above) Paddy Hill says he is still suffering from his experiences. (Inset) how the Birmingham Mail reported the bombing.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 13, 2011
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