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He was the editor of the Matlock Mercury who became involved in the campaign to overturn the murder conviction of Stephen Downing. In 1973, Downing, at the time a 17-year-old with the reading age of an 11-year-old, was imprisoned for the murder of Wendy Sewell and served 27 years in jail. Following his six-year campaign, the conviction was eventually quashed and declared unsafe by the Court of Appeal in 2001 and Downing was released. Hale's work on the case eventually helped to force a change in both European and British law, allowing any prisoner, particularly in denial of murder (IDOM) and/or convicted of any serious offence to be allowed to appeal for parole consideration directly to the Parole Board. Downing's case was one of three test cases originally presented to the European Court of Human Rights by Barrister Ed Fitzgerald. After several years of debate and despite a late appeal from the British Government, the case was finally won in Downing's favour and he received £500 in compensation. When Downing's murder conviction was later quashed, Downing also received over £900,000 in compensation from the British Government.
Hale has also been heavily involved with helping to successfully overturn the convictions of several other former prisoners including ex-policeman Graham Huckerby, who was jailed for his alleged part in a Salford bullion robbery - first highlighted on BBC's Crimewatch programme - and his extensive investigative work on the highly controversial case of Barry George, jailed for life for the murder of BBC TV star Jill Dando. Both prisoners had their convictions quashed and added to the growing list of major miscarriage cases. During 2013, Hale investigating an alleged miscarriage of justice for ex Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans, who was convicted of the rape of a teenage woman in Rhyl and sentenced to 5 years in jail. He presented fresh evidence to the IPCC on behalf and in support of the family's claim that the police inquiry was potentially 'biased and unsatisfactory.' Hale claimed he was 'staggered' at the amount of evidence not presented at trial and coupled with new statements and additional evidence, he has submitted a new submission to Evans' legal team, who are now preparing a new appeal via the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Evans who will be released from prison in October 2014 is hoping to return to football whilst fighting to clear his name.
Hale's book about the Stephen Downing appeal case, Town Without Pity, became a best-seller, and an adaption was made into a BBC TV drama starring Stephen Tompkinson and Carolyn Katz called In Denial of Murder. Run over two consecutive nights, the programme attracted over 9m audiences on each showing and later toured the world after being promoted by BBC Worldwide. Hale was voted 2001 Man of the Year by The Observer newspaper, Journalist of the Year by What the Papers Say and was made an OBE for his efforts and campaigning journalism. He has also been national journalist of the year on three occasions.
After a short spell working for the North Wales Pioneer newspaper, Hale later became editor of the newly formed North Wales Living magazine in 2005. Despite a period of outstanding success for this magazine, in which it collected seven national and regional awards, he left to pursue other interests. During the autumn of 2007, his book about the famous frogman spy mystery 'Buster' Crabb called The Final Dive was published by Suttons/The History Press. Hale has also had published Secrets of the Royal Detective about his great grandfather, James Wood, a notable Manchester detective from 1890 to 1914, who was also the first Royal Protection Officer acting as a personal bodyguard to the Prince of Wales, following the loss of Queen Victoria, and continued threats against the monarchy.
Hale's book, Mallard - How the Blue Streak broke the World Speed Record, was first released in paperback by Aurum Press in May 2008 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the speed record for steam locomotives held by LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard. It has remained in the top 100 of its genre more or less ever since publication and has enjoyed success in both hardback, paperback and in large print. This book was reprinted and published in July 2013 as a specially updated version for the 75th anniversary of Mallard breaking the world speed record on 3 July 1938, by publishers Aurum Press. The book was officially launched at the NRM in York on 3 July 2013 as part of the Great Gathering commemorations that included Mallard sharing the limelight with five of her surviving sister A4 Class locomotives. It is also likely to be the subject of a special TV documentary. Additional filming about both Mallard and Buster Crabb are under consideration from several independent and mainstream television companies. In September 2013, the Wendy Sewell murder also commemorated the 40th anniversary of this mystery killing.
Don Hale has since written and released several other true life and true crime publications on Amazon Kindle including his first ever crime novel - The Wrong Body - that first enjoyed success on the Authonomy website and later on digital download websites. Some of these other online successes have included Sounds of the Sixties, Club 60 & the Esquire; and The Joe Cocker Story. A new website highlights much of his previous TV, radio and journalism campaigns, with extracts from TV interviews etc. www.donhale.co.uk