Johnson and Ram free at last
BY FERN LANE
Two long-standing British miscarriage of justice case have been
resolved in recent days, with the release of Satpal Ram and the
overturning of the murder conviction of Irishman Frank Johnson by the
Appeal Court. They had served 16 and 26 years respectively, during which
time both had been denied parole for insisting that they were
Satpal Ram was convicted of murder as a 20-year-old after the fatal
stabbing of 21-year-old Clarke Pearce in November 1986. Ram had been in
the Sky Blue Asian restaurant in Birmingham with a group of friends when
Pearce arrived with six other people. Ram maintains that the group began
to racially abuse the restaurant staff. A fight ensued during which Ram
was stabbed twice with broken glass and Pearce was fatally stabbed with
a packing knife Ram used in his job as a warehouseman. Ram has always
maintained that he acted in self-defence after being racially abused and
then attacked by Pearce.
Although the judge recommended he serve a sentence of 11 years, in
August 2001 the then British Home Secretary Jack Straw ignored a parole
board recommendation that Ram be released. After his release, Ram said
he would continue the legal fight to clear his name. He is angry about
the length of time he was forced to stay in prison.
"I personally feel that there should be a public inquiry as to why I
was unlawfully held in prison since October 2000," he said. "The courts
ruled that the home secretary acted unlawfully and illegally and he
should be charged with false imprisonment and face the due process of
"I had to endure countless indignities and was put through a process
where I was systematically abused. I have lost members of my family. I
have lost my mother and father and nobody can ever compensate for 16
years behind bars."
On 26 June, the conviction of Frank Johnson, now 66, was overturned
by three appeal court judges, who declared it unsafe. In 1976, Johnson
was convicted of the murder of Jack Sheridan, who died three weeks after
he was set alight in his shop in East London in February 1975.
The appeal hearing was told by Edward Fitzgerald QC that Johnson had
developed a paranoid psychosis at the time of the trial making the
original verdict unsafe.
Like Satpal Ram, Frank Johnson was also denied parole because he
refused to admit his guilt. He has been supported in his campaign by
Billy Power, one of the Birmingham Six.
After his release, Johnson said that he was not bitter about his
treatment, just sad.
"Sometimes understanding is more important than knowledge," he said.
"There is nothing I can do about the past. That time is gone; it's
finished. Sometimes you just have to go along with it and I have to look