NOT much of a bigger story in north London this week than the release from prison of Hoxton lad Sam Hallam, a man who went to jail as a kid to be robbed his late teens and early 20s by a miscarriage of justice.
His face was on the front of the Independent this week and there was a big piece in the Guardian. Good. But the Daily Mirror, better read on the Hoxton estates, tucked it back on page 20. When I saw that I thought of Alastair Campbell, the former Mirror journalist, talking about the case earlier this week and praising another former Mirror journalist Paul Foot for his investigating of similar scandals of the past. What a contrast to the old days: a man’s life wrecked by a bum conviction and the report in the Mirror is squeezed behind Prince Phillip admiring a woman in a red zipped dress, Raquelle from Coronation Street doing some acting in something and something else about Denis Welch. Maybe compare that list of priorities to the coverage Amanda ‘Foxy Knoxy’ Knox received.
What would Paul Foot have made of his old paper this week? Who knows? At least, he certainly would have been proud of his son Matt, a lawyer who worked on the Sam Hallam case, and Tom Foot, another son, who reported on the case, with the help of Pavan Amara and Josh Loeb. I’m biased, but the Islington Tribune, which was only just starting out as a paper when Sam saw the inside of a cell for the first time, did a cracking job today. One of its strengths is the interviews in there with not only Sam himself but members of the Guildford Four who give words of advice for Sam, whose world must be spinning with every passing second right now.
Gerry Conlon suggests Sam shouldn’t rush into anything and take some time out of London. His quotes sum up a life stood still, with a poetry that chills your chest: “He needs to feel what a flower feels like again, go and sit under a tree, take a walk where the river meanders. It will help him collect his thoughts, soothe his mind. He’ll notice every little thing. He’ll notice a butterfly floating past him and the details on its wings, he’ll notice the fumes behind a bus because his concentration levels will be very high. I’ll tell you what he must do, he must go for a walk in the rain when there’s thunder and very bad weather because that is something special, that will be something special for him.”