John’s Story

“He’s a really good guy but they destroyed his life. He didn’t do it”. He’s John, Mike’s mate. John worked as refuse collector and had a simple life before the justice system got hold of him.

Thick set, tattoos, and a very strong Sheffield accent modified by a speech impediment, his demeanour is that of a working class bloke. Or a thug, depending on one’s understanding of people.

When you don’t snitch

“Prison didn’t really bother him. He’d just come out of a divorce and pumping iron every day was good for him. It was just the injustice of it all that gets him,” Mike adds. John hadn’t much experience of the law prior to his arrest. He hadn’t done much wrong in his life, and at the very least hadn’t been charged with anything before.

John had been on a night out. The typical bar fight began and someone got their jaw broken. John was arrested and pleaded not guilty. The thing is, John knew who did it, but knew that person’s life would be over, and he was too young for that.

As Mike explains, “he, like me, is from a working class estate and it’s just part of the culture – you don’t grass”.

John didn’t do it

“There weren’t witnesses, there was no real evidence… Well, there was one witness, but he’d had 7 pints and 12 shorts. John didn’t stand a chance”. I asked Mike why he thought John had so little hope. “Well, it’s class isn’t it?”

The problem for a rough-at-the-edges working class labourer is always going to be his class. It can be anything really – accent, legal knowledge, connections, dialect, intonation, or simply a naïve belief in the justice system.

He couldn’t afford a good lawyer. He hadn’t the life experience or contacts to work out the intricacies of the legal system. But most of all he was thick set, with tattoos, and a Sheffield accent modified by a speech impediment.

I’m not sure what to think of Mike’s explanation. I believe him because I spoke to both of them and there wasn’t a hint of deception, but it’s a tad surreal.

In the hearing the judge made a point to the jury that even though John had no previous, “he’s the sort of person who would have done this in the past, even if he hasn’t been caught before.”

I probably wouldn’t have believed it some years ago, but it’s all too familiar these days. Got 12 do 3. He’s still a nice guy.

Why not appeal?

It’s so obvious, the justice system provides for appeal, doesn’t it? No real evidence, a drunken witness, and knowledge of the perpetrator. Surely he can appeal?

Well, he wants to for sure. Influencing the jury, dodgy witness and no other evidence is a no-brainer. The only problem is cost. He works, has a little money – too much for legal aid, but not enough to fund his appeal.

The clincher, though? He knows who did it. But he won’t snitch. Indeed it’s not the defence’s duty to prove who did it, just who didn’t.

If anyone reading this might want to help him overturn the conviction, do get in touch.

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