IF you ask Robert Brown if there are any happy memories he can look back on from his early years in Clydebank, his anger and emotion explode to the surface.

“I don’t feel anything – I’m dead inside,” he says. “How I feel doesn’t matter. Pain is all I know. I live with it every day and I have to deal with it in my own way every day.”

Robert is a victim of one of Britain’s worst miscarriages of justice, having spent 25 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

Speaking to the Post on the 15th anniversary of the Court of Appeal throwing out his conviction on November 13, 2002, Robert is no less angry at what happened to him.

“I don’t do this because I want self-pity,” he says. “I want changes to the criminal justice system that shows there’s balance and equality for everybody. We need deep, radical change or you’re going to hear cases like this for the next 25 years.

“It concerns me people are still getting convicted on hearsay evidence, character assassination and more – you would think a criminal justice system would have to be evidence based. I was convicted on the word of the police and juries believe police.

“Since I was released in 2002, there has not been any improvement in the justice system. I think police should be held responsible for their crimes. It’s as if police are a law unto themselves.

“I don’t believe we will get any changes until people march like they did against the Iraq war.”

Robert grew up in a tenement in Kilbowie just opposite Singer’s, until the age of nine when he went into care in Quarriers until he was 15. Four years later, he started a quarter century stretch in prison.

Annie Walsh, 51, was murdered in Manchester in 1977. After months of the case sitting unsolved, Robert was picked up and he was beaten for two days until he confessed. Most of the officers allegedly involved are now dead so Robert will never see them brought to justice.

In prison, he continued to profess his innocence, meaning the system wouldn’t help him because he failed to accept his guilt.

Two officers were convicted in 1983 based on the Topping report into police corruption, including an investigator in Robert’s case. But the report was buried and the Home Office refused an appeal by Robert in 1994.

Yet it took less than an hour for the Court of Appeal to realise Robert’s conviction was unsafe, 10 years after the Home Office refused and nearly 20 after the investigation of police.

While Robert had been in jail, his father died, as did his sister, whose funeral he was refused the chance to attend. He got out just in time to nurse his mother Margaret, who was dying of cancer.

He lived in Knightswood for a time after his release but later moved away from the area.

Though Robert was given compensation, the justice system then demanded more than £100,000 to pay for his prison living expenses.

“I’m angry and dislike the system for what it’s done to me and done to other working class people,” says the 60-year-old. “I didn’t want money – money didn’t give me justice, it doesn't give my mother her life back. 

“There are a lot of issues left unresolved. The real killer of Annie Walsh has not been caught. I’m passionate about getting the system changed.

“I think it’s too late for me getting help and assistance for the damage done to me.”

Robert says the people reading about court stories assume if an accused person makes no comment to police that they must have something to hide, even though it is their right not to speak.

“The public are quick to want to hang somebody without having any real knowledge of the facts or evidence of the case,” he says. “If there’s no evidence to connect someone to the crime, then there’s no case to answer.

“The word of one man or woman is not enough.”

Clydebank Post:

Paul McLaughlin, co-project manager of the Miscarriage of Justice Organisation (Mojo) in Glasgow, says all systems involving human beings are flawed.

And as the justice system works to increase convictions for rape and other sexual offences, many of them decades old, Paul says Mojo is concerned the standards for convictions are being relaxed.

He said: “Women and men deserve the right to be protected but you don’t do that by lowering your standards. People must be believed but claims need to be backed by evidence.

“Anybody could be in Robert’s shoes. A jury is a protection against convictions like Robert’s – juries need to keep an open mind.

“Some criminals will get away – but we should not be lowering the standard just on the basis of a desire for justice. That’s the danger of this rush to judgment.”

Paul says they get up to 150 applications a year about possible miscarriages of justice in Scotland.

Mojo’s desired overhauls include: declaring people innocent after a conviction is quashed; giving the same resources to help those leaving prison innocent as is offered to the guilty; and supporting wrongly convicted men and women with issues such as PTSD Robert and Mojo will be visiting the UK Parliament later this month to show the film Fallout.

He adds that his story now is a bit like the nursery rhyme: All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, “nobody can put me together again”.

Visit sayiminnocent.com or miscarriagesofjustice.org for more on their work.