An Irishman who was wrongly imprisoned for 17 years by a British court was finally released this week -- but was forced to spend his first night of freedom on the streets.
Victor Nealon, a Dubliner who emigrated to England 20 years ago, was released from prison after being handed a life sentence for the attempted rape of a woman who was on the way home from a nightclub in 1996.
The 53-year-old man was freed on Friday after a DNA test revealed he was not the perpetrator of the sexual assault. Three judges quashed his conviction after the Court of Appeal heard the DNA taken from the victim’s blouse did not belong to Nealon.
The Irishman had volunteered to give a DNA sample at the time of the attack and no trace of his had been found on the woman’s clothing. The former postman left Wakefield Prison some hours after the verdict, with only 46 pounds in his pocket and nowhere to go. He spent his first night sleeping rough on the streets.
Speaking about the case, Mr Nealon humbly said: “I would call for the police to reopen this case and give the victim some justice in this case. I’m not pinpointing any sort of or attributing any sort of blame to her.
“I don’t want the victim to be carrying a burden here. I deserve some explanation from the police as to why this happened and also the victim does.”
The high number of miscarriage of justice cases involving Irish citizens in England and Scotland has long been linked to anti-Irish racism within the right-wing political establishment of both countries.
But the open and public racism against the Irish in Scotland suffered a rare blow this week when a conviction was secured. Internet broadcaster David Limond was convicted of ‘sending a threatening communication aggravated by racial and religious prejudice’ after he described an Irish journalist as a “Provo ****” and a “f***pig”.
His show on the Glasgow Rangers soccer team also featured a jingle with the words “Taig [Catholic] of the Day” and “Scum of the Day”. Limond, whose racist behaviour were highlighted by London-based Channel 4 broadcaster Alex Thomson, will be sentenced next year.
However, hardline unionist Ruth Patterson appears to have escaped a similar fate in the north of Ireland. The DUP councillor faced similar charges in Belfast, but today had those charges controversially withdrawn.
Patterson had been accused of sending a ‘grossly offensive electronic communication’ in August after she commented about a hypothetical attack in which nationalist marchers, including leading Sinn Fein figures, would be murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in a large-scale gun and bomb attack.
In response to the suggested atrocity, she wrote on Facebook: “We would have done a great service to Northern Ireland and the world.” However, hate charges against her were withdrawn today, without explanation.
She thanked the DUP for “standing by” her during the case. She added: “But most of all, I thank my loyalist people who stand here today with me, shoulder to shoulder. We are unbowed, unbroken and 100% united in loyalty to our Queen and our country.”