Belfast Telegraph

Wrongly jailed for armed robbery, Frank Newell's living hell is finally over

By Claire Williamson

Frank Newell suffered a living nightmare as a victim of injustice for four decades. But yesterday, the pensioner smiled victoriously as he posed for photographs with his family outside the High Court in Belfast.

At the age of 73 and after a long and hard legal battle, he was the picture of a free man.

Mr Newell's life changed forever 40 years ago when he was wrongly jailed for the armed robbery of a post office in Lisburn.

But the determined father never gave up his fight for justice.

The former taxi driver was in his 30s when he was jailed for a paramilitary heist, but he never gave up on the fight to prove his innocence, a process which has taken its toll on him.

Mr Newell always insisted that his car was hijacked by those who did steal the £3,000 in the armed robbery.

When he was convicted in 1974, his wife Myrtle lobbied and campaigned to get him released.

Mr Newell was originally sentenced to four years in prison.

He appealed around a year later – but actually had his jail term doubled instead.

On his release he continued his bid to clear his name.

And yesterday it finally came to a successful conclusion as his convictions were quashed.

Both Mr Newell and his family were delighted by the decision.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I'm glad it's all over.

"It's been a long, hard struggle but the truth came out in the end. I've been passed from pillar to post for years."

Mr Newell described how five years ago he contacted the Committee on the Administration of Justice, which took up his case.

It was then referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, who referred it back to the Court of Appeal.

He said: "They took the case up from there and that was the culmination this morning – everything came up roses."

Mr Newell said the night in 1973 has "never left him", calling it "indescribable."

"I wouldn't want anybody else to go through what I went through," he said.

"It was a living nightmare. I spent my four years in the Crumlin Road Prison and I appealed the four years and they doubled it to eight because they said the four years was very lenient, so that was even worse.

"But today brought it all to a head and it's finally over."

He added: "I never gave up and it all came round in the end."

And the long road to justice has been equally as tough on his family, who watched on for years as Mr Newell tirelessly tried to clear his name.

His daughter Franchine Young (47) said: "Words can't express how delighted we are.

"It has been a long, difficult road, and obviously at the time it was utter chaos for the family.

"Mum did a lot of lobbying for the first two years and campaigning to free him and to clear his name. But at the time, in the 1970s, it had fallen on deaf ears, and then thankfully today, after 40 years, justice has been done.

"I'd say that the direction and the course of our family completely changed, and certainly there was some stigma attached."

She described the difficulties this added to her father's life, particularly as he tried to get jobs.

"But we got through it together as a family and we never gave up," she said.

"We are a very strong family and we always have been."

Now the family is looking to the future and feel they can finally move on.

Franchine added: "I think that dad always had faith, but I think along the way the rest of the family never expected to get this result.

"Dad, I would say, always had faith that the truth would come out in the end – and it did."

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