He has served 27 years in prison for a 1974 murder he claims he did not commit.
Today, Matlock Mercury editor Mr Hale, who has investigated the case and campaigned for Downing’s freedom, said it was only a matter of time before his release.
The decision has thrown the editor of the weekly newspaper into the media spotlight, and within hours of the decision he was being interviewed on most TV channels and by the national press and radio.
“The world’s press seem to have been at my door all day,” Mr Hale told HoldTheFrontPage.
He went on to explain: “Stephen’s case has been referred to the Court of Appeal.
“The hearing should happen within a few months and it is expected that his conviction will be quashed. He is expected to be released within days.
“That means it is now very likely the case will be reopened.”
Mr Hale is certain the killer is still at large – after attempts were made on his own – and other villagers’ – lives as the facts were re-examined by the journalist in the Matlock Mercury.
The decision on the right to appeal was made by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and made public last night.
Downing has spent such a long time in prison because he would not accept his guilt – the irony being that if he had admitted the Bakewell murder he could have been free 10 years ago.
MP Patrick McLoughlin made a statement in the House of Commons yesterday and Downing’s legal team is awaiting confirmation of release on bail from Home Secretary Jack Straw.
For more on the background to this story, click here.
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