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Don's amazing year

Campaigning editor Don Hale has described the last seven months as an “amazing time” in his life.

His work to win justice for Bakewell man Stephen Downing, after 27 years in prison for a murder he has always claimed he did not commit, came to fruition last year.

In November, Downing’s alleged miscarriage case was finally referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission back to the Court of Appeal after a six year-plus campaign via the Home Office and CCRC.

In February, Downing, was eventually released on bail pending an appeal later this year.

The case attracted worldwide attention and has been featured in more than 50 countries – particularly in America, Australia and Germany, where it interrupted programmes as breaking news.

Don, editor of the Matlock Mercury, has already collected 11 regional, national and international press awards and is up for two more at another ceremony later this week.

“It’s been an amazing six or seven months since winning the first award – the What the Papers Say, Journalist of the Year prize,” he said.

“The marathon campaign seems to have struck a chord with so many people from all walks of life. I have received hundreds of letters of support from a worldwide audience.

“The incredible thing is that all journalists seem to share in the pride of this campaign and the remarkable achievement. Here was a man who had been claiming innocence for more than two decades but had been left to rot in jail – mainly because he remained in denial of the offence.

“My investigations, coupled with fresh evidence and a re-examination of key material facts have persuaded the authorities to consider the possibility of a serious miscarriage of justice, and although I do not wish to appear complacent, I am hopeful of a satisfactory outcome at the final appeal in September.

“It’s been a fascinating but demanding story to work on, and one that every journalist in the country would probably liked to have broken. I was fortunate in some respects that I was in the right place at the right time but my involvement has not been without personal sacrifice and concern.

“I am so pleased that Stephen is now free, and hopefully his name will soon be cleared and he will receive some compensation for all his suffering. It’s hoped this case will remain as a lesson for us all and will never happen again.”

He added: “I feel these awards are awards for freedom and human rights issues, rather than just for my individual efforts.

“But there seems a genuine lack of investigative journalism these days and maybe this campaign will act as a wake-up call to other newspapers and organisations.”

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