In a statement released this evening by political prisoner and miscarriage of justice victim, John Paul Wootton of the Craigavon Two, in which marks the occasion of his 14th year of wrongful imprisonment.
The statement reads:
"I just want to give an update on where I’m at as I go into my 14th year as a political prisoner.
"The past 12 months haven’t been great for anyone of course, with the ongoing threat from Covid and the restrictions that have followed, but while a degree of normality had returned to the outside world, those of us imprisoned saw only a meagre of relaxation of the measures imposed on us over the past 2 years, with such things as our family visits still severely restricted.
"Like everyone, I hope that 2022 can put the pandemic behind us and liberties that have been removed can be reasserted.
"The previous year has seen a number of developments in my own circumstances.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to get my case back to the court of appeal through the Criminal Case Review. Commission but, armed with a new legal team and ongoing work, hopefully this year will see some positive change in that respect. Tentative signs of this has come in the form of the CCRC agreeing to re-examine some matters previously disregarded.
"There has been some success in terms of conditions within the prison itself. Successful court actions and broader campaigns against the prison, as well as the Prison Ombudsman, have resulted in some improvement for myself personally as well as prisoners in general.
"Going forward, there are still many issues outstanding and I intend to continue to press for progressive changes in the system. Unlawful cell raids, outstanding prohibition on books, and restrictions on contact with the outside world are some of the problems that warrant attention. Also, as I enter the final 5 years until the imposed minimum tariff of 18 is complete. I have begun to look at my eventual release in circumstances where we are unable to overturn my conviction and achieve a full acquittal.
"Eventually, an opportunity will raise to engage in pre-release scheme, whereby, in my last 3 years, I can acquire periods of temporary release to spend time with my family and begin a different transition from prison life to normal community life. I began to explore my options, regarding this, in a serious way in the last year.
"It became clear to me that the hostility of the prison system forward me personally was going to be a profound problem. I became acutely aware of the opportunities to move forward offered to others, and to which I should have been entitled, yet which were being withheld. I worried about the implications of this for my family and comrades, to challenge it and to build some momentum towards creating a way forward.
"After months of campaigning, which took incredible emotional toll on me and those around me, there are tentative signs that a route exists that will allow me to move forward and I have now taken the first step. I am in no doubt that developments are down to the contribution of all those involved publicly and privately, and for this I am of course immensely grateful.
"However I am not naive to think everything will now unfold smoothly and without further struggle, but, I am confident, based on the love and solidarity shown this far that success is possible.
"So, I intend to push forward to achieve my freedom from this place, whether via acquittal or progression through the system, while also maintaining my own principles and challenging the system to change. I hope the next 12 months brings good things to us all and together the world can be a better place.
“ Above the Courts, beyond the 20 years in prison you can sentence us to - beyond even a life sentence - I can see the dawn of liberty and equality breaking”