Tour highlights miscarriages of justice


On November 26, Paddy "Joe" Hill and Gerry Conlon told a transfixed audience their experience of unjust imprisonment. The event, at the Perth Irish Club, was part of a tour profiling the British Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO).

The tour of three British MOJO activists was initiated by Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) state secretary Chris Cain.

MOJO was established by Hill and John McManus, and is dedicated to helping jailed innocent people, both in prison and after their release.

Conlon and Hill, who are both Irish, were unjustly convicted in Britain of separate terrorism charges in the 1970s, and were freed from prison only after long-running campaigns. They became known as part of the "Birmingham Six" (in Hill's case) and the "Guildford Four" (in Conlon's case).

After being released, none of the victims of unjust imprisonment were given counselling or any aid to reintegrate into the community.

McManus described the ongoing post-traumatic stress disorders faced by people who have been unjustly convicted.

MOJO aims to set up specialised counselling for innocent people after they are released from prison, and to campaign for their rights.

McManus said: "It is bad enough to be imprisoned when you're innocent, but just to be dumped back into society is cruel. You would not do that with a caged animal."

Among its achievements, MOJO helped change the British welfare system in 2001 that allowed people found to have been unjustly jailed to claim welfare. They had been previously excluded from welfare because they had not paid taxes while imprisoned.

MOJO aims to establish a retreat to help rehabilitate victims and prepare them for their return to society. Without such help, many of them are now falling victim to substance addiction and homelessness.

McManus has established ongoing links with the trade union movement and hopes the retreat will also be used to treat those who have face trauma in the workplace.

The goal of raising £500,000 to build the retreat got a boost from a $6000 donation from the MUA, as well as $2000 from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (WA) and entry money and donations on the night, which also totalled $2000.