Irish man freed after 17 years in UK jail as conviction overturned
Victor Nealon was wrongfully found guilty of attempted rape, court of appeal rules
Speaking by videolink from Wakefield Prison, Victor Nealon, who listened to Mr Justice Fulford’s declaration that he should be released, said only: “Thank you, thank you very much.”
An Irish man who has served 17 years in jail in Britain for attempted rape was released last night after the court of appeal ruled that he had been wrongfully convicted.
Dubliner Victor Nealon had always denied that he had tried to rape a 22-year-old as she walked home from a nightclub in Redditch, Worcestershire, in 1996.
Mr Nealon, who said he was at home watching TV on the night of the attack, had volunteered a DNA sample after he was arrested and no match was found. However, it now emerges that police never told Hereford crown court during his 1997 trial that the DNA of another unknown man had been found on the woman’s blouse and underwear, the court of appeal heard.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred Mr Nealon’s case to the court of appeal earlier this year.
Following a sitting which lasted just an hour yesterday, the three-judge court ordered his immediate release, adding that they will publish their full reasons later.
Speaking by videolink from Wakefield Prison, Mr Nealon, who listened to Mr Justice Fulford’s declaration that he should be released, said only: “Thank you, thank you very much.”
The Irish man, who moved to Britain more than 20 years ago, was given a discretionary life term. He has remained in jail and was refused parole as he always denied the offence.
“In the context of these proceedings, this DNA evidence is dynamite and, had it been used at trial, it would have had an explosive effect,” Mr Nealon’s barrister, Peter Willcock QC, told the court.
Last night, a friend, Mr Leo O’Toole, said Mr Nealon had suffered “terribly” in prison and had faced abuse because of his alleged crime and because he is Irish.
His relationship with his partner had collapsed after he was jailed, while family members have died.
Mr O’Toole, a member of the West Midlands Against Injustice group, was sharply critical of the police. He said Mr Nealon had been charged even though six people had failed to identify him in a line-up. The 2010 referral by the CCRC came even though it had twice before rejected his appeals and had refused calls to order DNA testing on evidence samples.