Wrongly accused comfort Stafford
GRAHAM Stafford knows the devastating effects of being wrongly convicted of a crime – he served 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
So meeting two men who had been through a similar ordeal was “therapeutic” for the Mooloolaba 46-year-old.
Yesterday Mr Stafford travelled to Brisbane to meet Irishmen Gerry Conlon and Paddy Hill who, in the 1970s, were arrested and convicted for bombings during the peak of IRA activity in Britain.
They were crimes they did not commit.
The pair were in Australia representing the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, a group that helps innocent people in and out of prison readjust to every day life.
“It was so therapeutic for me to meet people who've been through the same thing as me,” Mr Stafford said.
“There were things they had an understanding of that no one else ever would.
“I spoke to them about things that happened to me inside I've never been able to tell anyone.”
Mr Conlon, 56, said being wrongfully convicted of a crime was “the worst nightmare you could ever imagine”.
“I was sentenced to five life terms and the judge recommended I not be released until I had served at least 30 years,” Mr Conlon said.
“I felt helpless and was not ready for the violence, the murders and the abuse I encountered in prison.
“My father was convicted too and he was innocent. He died in prison after six years. He was only 56.”
Mr Conlon said there was no longer joy in his life but helping other wrongly accused people kept him going.
He said no amount of money could compensate the life he missed out on, but he was glad to have gained his freedom after an extensive media campaign.
“My father died and my mother never smiled again. How can you compensate someone for that?” he said.
“All over the world we see the same problems and the quality of justice people receive is not good enough.”
Mr Stafford was falsely accused of murdering Goodna schoolgirl Leanne Holland in 1991, a conviction which was quashed last year.
Like Mr Conlon, he fought for years to clear his name and now, 19 years later, he is getting some sort of justice.
A special taskforce is looking into the original investigation and claims evidence was falsified.
Read more about Graham Stafford in the news.