Maguire Seven man's warning for freed Sam Hallam

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Media captionSam Hallam: "I just hope it never happens to anyone else"

An innocent man convicted as a teenager leaves court after being cleared and says: "This is my country and it's done this to me, that's something I'll have to live with.

"I just hope it never happens to anyone else."

Not the words of Sam Hallam, cleared of murder on Thursday after years spent behind bars.

But the words of Patrick Maguire, wrongly imprisoned over an IRA bombing campaign in the 1970s.

There are parallels between the cases.

Sam Hallam was jailed for life in 2005 over the death of 21-year-old chef Essayas Kassahun in Clerkenwell, central London.

Police did not investigate his alibi - and he was convicted after a failure to disclose crucial evidence including mobile phone data and CCTV footage.

Mr Maguire, meanwhile, was found guilty on the basis of flawed forensic evidence.

He served four years to Mr Hallam's seven.

'Bruises never heal'

Perhaps the similarities were the reason Mr Maguire was moved to visit Mr Hallam in prison in 2006, becoming swiftly convinced of his innocence.

He then spent years campaigning for Mr Hallam's release, celebrating with his family in a local pub after he walked out of custody on Wednesday.

But Mr Maguire has words of warning for the freshly released man, now aged 24.

He told the BBC: "My biggest sentence started when I was released - and Sam will have to go through this too.

"What it's done to him mentally, I honestly don't know.

"I still go for counselling once a week after all these years - I'm 51 now."

He continued: "You don't get over things like this lightly - there are bruises that will never heal.

"It's like being stuck on the moon for seven years, then suddenly dropped back on earth.

"In prison you can go all day and only take 50 steps - now Sam can go anywhere he wants in the whole world.

"I woke up this morning, pulled back the curtain, and thought, 'Wow, Sam will be doing this too - only now there won't be bars in the way'."

Mr Maguire first read about Sam's case on the internet and then got in touch with his family offering to do what he could.

He recalls: "Anyone with half a brain could see he was innocent.

"I have lived alongside murderers and you can't mistake them - it's in their eyes.

Image caption Patrick Maguire was arrested aged just 13 and released four years later

"The moment I met him I knew he wasn't a murderer but what really gets my goat is how long he spent inside."

And Mr Maguire is one of the very few people who will experience the agony of losing their freedom due to a miscarriage of justice.

He told BBC London: "Every day I spent behind bars I believed someone would come and say, 'We have made a mistake, you're free to go'.

"There are some days you want to get on the roof and literally shout your innocence to the world.

"But you can't even do that, you really are cut off from the rest of existence."

Mr Maguire continued: "When you're in that situation your greatest strength is knowing you are innocent.

"But in a way Sam had the easiest job.

"When you're in prison you walk from A to B and follow routine - it's the family who are having to do that campaigning and fight the battle."

'Against the system'

Mr Hallam's struggle for freedom gained much publicity due to the close involvement of the actor Ray Winstone.

And Mr Maguire, who has lost count of the occasions he visited Sam in prison, also grew close to his family.

He said: "Wendy [his mother] told me, 'I just want my baby back'.

"I told her, 'You will, but you will have to be patient. We are not going to just let this thing drop. But we are up against the system that put him away in the first place.'"

Mr Hallam appeared dazed when he was released on Wednesday, when, in a surprise move, prosecutors said they would not oppose his appeal.

By Thursday however - when his conviction was formally quashed - he sported a new haircut, an ironed shirt and a huge smile.

Yet Mr Maguire is angry at the lack of support for people in Mr Hallam's position.

He said: "The government has nothing set up for people who've suffered a miscarriage of justice.

"If you are genuinely guilty there are all sorts of schemes to teach you how to screw in a light bulb and manage money.

"There will be nothing for Sam."

After the quashing of the conviction, a statement from Mr Hallam bore a ghostly similarity to the words spoken by Mr Maguire all those years before.

It read: "I don't want anyone else ever to suffer what I've been through."

Two men, two miscarriages of justice, two near-identical wishes at the moment of their exoneration.

Only time will tell if their hopes for others will be dashed.

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