Stalwart activists who successfully fought to free Sam Hallam have criticised a Hackney MP for marching round to the ex-prisoner’s home uninvited and claiming she was a longstanding supporter of his campaign.
Meg Hillier, the Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, made the visit to the family home of the Hoxton miscarriage of justice victim on May 19, just three days after his murder conviction was quashed in the High Court.
She was turned away but claimed she had made moves to support Mr Hallam’s relatives, including his mother Wendy Cohen, and advocated on his behalf in the seven years since his conviction.
Veteran campaigner Paul May and Patrick Maguire, who spent four years locked up for a crime he did not commit, accused Ms Hillier of being a fair-weather supporter.
Mr May said the family wanted the MP to “leave them alone”, adding that she had had “no association with the lengthy and arduous campaign for Sam Hallam’s release.”
Mr Hallam was convicted in 2005, when he was aged just 18, of the killing of Essayas Kassahun, an Ethiopian refugee and trainee chef who died in a gang attack in Finsbury.
Mr Maguire, who went to prison in 1976 along with five relatives and a friend after they were wrongfully found guilty of helping terrorists, accused Ms Hillier of being an opportunist keen to jump on the bandwagon.
He said: “In our own cases in the past, me and my brother, when my parents were still in prison, approached our local MPs asking them for some help, not so much to join the campaign but help to go and visit our parents, because they were all over the country, and to help to get some recognition about our cause.
“They didn’t want to know. But when the red carpet comes out, they seem to come out with it and jump on the wagon. They seem to all want a bit of the glory of it. But there is no glory in it. I’ve seen some of the letters she wrote to Wendy in the past few days, but I asked Wendy how many other letters she has got over the last seven years from her.”
Ms Hillier said: “The expected quashing of Sam Hallam’s conviction is great news for him, his family and supporters. But it raises serious concerns about police processes. These need to be investigated thoroughly and I will be pressing government and the Metropolitan Police to conduct a full investigation.”
The Sam Hallam Campaign has written to Ms Hillier advising her that she is not authorised to act on his behalf, his family or his legal representatives and requesting that she refrain from conducting any discussions concerning his case.
The campaign is considering its options with regards to how best to hold the police to account for their botched investigation into the murder of Mr Kassahun, which led to Mr Hallam’s conviction.