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Appeal hearing date for Downing – one year on

A man who spent more than 27 years in prison for a murder he claims he did not commit will get his appeal hearing in January – almost a year since his release on bail.

The provisional date for Stephen Downing’s appeal is Tuesday and Wednesday January 15 and 16.

His release from prison was largely due to former Matlock Mercury editor Don Hale, whose campaign uncovered evidence to question the original conviction.

Don said today: “It will be almost 12 months since Downing was released on bail pending the appeal.

“I feel the delay with announcing the date of the appeal has put a tremendous and unnecessary strain on both Stephen and his family.

“After serving more than 27 years in jail for a murder he has always claimed he did not commit. I believe an appeal could and should have been brought forward.

“It was clear at the bail hearing in February when the skeleton argument for the appeal was outlined, that his conviction is expected to be quashed.

“I cannot understand therefore, why it has taken the authorities all this time to agree on a suitable date.”

Stephen Downing, now 45, was 17 when he was arrested for the 1973 murder of Wendy Sewell, in Bakewell, Derbyshire.

His time in prison was prolonged simply because he would not acknowledge his guilt.

Don Hale said: “I am confident that Stephen will become a free man next year and I hope he receives adequate compensation from the authorities.

“There are many lessons to be learned from this case – not withstanding the fact he has always claimed his innocence and that he served more than 10 years beyond his recommended tariff because of his continued claims of innocence.”

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