A man who was wrongly convicted on a charge of sexual assault has finally been able to walk free. However, this comes only after losing 17 years of his life to prison. DNA evidence has pointed the law towards the fact he was not the real culprit, leading the court of appeal to finally set the man free.
Former postman Victor Nealon never stopped insisting he was innocent after being convicted of rape in 1997. He has now been proved right after the best part of two decades, and his conviction has been quashed. The Court of Appeal is yet to reveal the full details of the judgement, but they will do so at a later date according to Lord Justice Fulford.
The DNA evidence that has now overturned his conviction would have been “explosive” if it had been put before the original trial, according to Peter Willcock QC who was representing Nealon.
Nealon, who is now 53, had been jailed for life. This sentence was a discretionary one, but he was refused consideration for parole due to the fact he continually maintained his innocence. As it has turned out, he was telling the truth and denying him parole on these grounds merely lengthened a mistaken imprisonment.
Nealon appeared through a video link at the appeal. He did not speak, except to give enthusiastic thanks when it was said that his conviction would be overturned.
There were two previous attempts by Nealon to appeal against his sentence. However, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) refused to conduct DNA tests on the evidence from the trial. Ultimately, independent experts were commissioned to carry out the tests by solicitor Mark Newby, who works for Jordan’s Solicitors in Doncaster. When they were finally performed in 2010 the tests found that the DNA could not have come from Nealon. Instead, it belongs to another man whose identity currently remains unknown.
At first the Crown still resisted the validity of the DNA evidence. They claimed it could have been contaminated and the DNA could have come from other sources, for example the shops from which the clothes were purchased. However, the defence pointed out that the DNA was on multiple, separate items of clothing and in locations that were consistent with the way the attack had been described as taking place.
According to Leo O’Toole, Nealon’s friend and an avid campaigner for his release, welcomed the decision but said that “the damage to Victor – and to the victim – is irreversible. She will also now know that the real perpetrator got away free.” Ultimately, it took too long for the blunder to be corrected.