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Jack Straw to be quizzed on Downing delay

The fight to free convicted murderer Stephen Downing has taken another twist with Home Secretary Jack Straw being summoned to the commons to explain delays in the appeal hearing.

Here, campaigner Don Hale, editor of the Matlock Mercury, writes about the latest news.

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Home Secretary Jack Straw is to be asked to attend the House of Commons in the next fortnight to give an explanation about delays concerning Stephen Downing’s appeal case with the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

West Derbyshire MP, Patrick McLoughlin, raised the issue with the Leader of the House, Margaret Beckett, and has asked Matlock Mercury editor Don Hale if he would be willing to have a face-to-face meeting with minister Paul Boetang and Home Secretary Jack Straw.

In an extract from Hansard last Thursday, the MP asked: “Will the Leader of the House try to arrange for the Home Secretary to come to the Chamber next week to make a statement on the CCRC?

“Is she aware of the growing concern about the delay in the commission’s deliberations on the case of Stephen Downing? She will no doubt have seen much publicity about the case during the summer months.

“Stephen Downing has been in prison for a considerable time, and his case has been with the CCRC since its inception.”

Mrs Beckett replied: “Obviously, when my Rt Hon friend has had a chance to consider his remarks, he will take them into account.”

The Mercury editor has pushed many times over recent years for a private meeting with the Home Secretary and/or other key officials but says they have always declined.

He said: “It’s ironic that when Jack Straw was the shadow Home Secretary, he and his team were supportive of open government and criticised the Tory Home Secretary Michael Howard over this same issue.

“One of his spokesmen even confirmed ‘they would move heaven and earth to force an investigation of his case.’

“Now that Jack is in charge, it seems to be a different matter and we constantly face the same red-tape and bureaucracy.

“As I have said on numerous occasions, I would rather meet and sort out this mess as soon as possible.

“What the government seem to forget is that Stephen is still in prison for a crime he did not commit.

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