"It is not the sanity of John Straffen that is in question, but the sanity of the law."
Doctor at Straffen’s trial, 1952
Although the public are horrified and shocked after Straffen’s escape and the murder of Linda Bowyer, they are equally disgusted at his treatment at court. The widespread reporting of Straffen’s mental age and ability causes many people to question the verdict and the way in which the mentally challenged are treated by the legal system. The government is forced to intervene.
Straffen is reprieved by the Home Secretary on the grounds of insanity one month after his trial, on 29 August 1952. This reprieve means that in just one year Straffen has been declared insane, sane and then insane again.
When the Criminal Cases Review Commission begins its work in 1997, Straffen submits his own case to them. He was still claiming his innocence for the murder of Linda Bowyer.
In 2001, solicitors acting for Straffen call for his case to be reopened, saying that he should never have stood trial, as he has a mental age of nine and a half. Hadgkiss, Hughes & Beale, a Birmingham-based firm, say an eminent forensic psychiatrist has re-examined the original pre-trial reports on Straffen and says he was not fit to have been tried. They claim that because he was declared a "mental defective" in 1947 and committed to a "colony for mental defectives" and as he was found unfit to plead in 1951, he could not have effectively taken part in a trial nine months later. But the case was never reopened.
After Straffen's escape from Broadmoor in 1952, a siren system is installed to alert local residents if an inmate was on the loose. The alarm is still tested every Monday morning.
When he dies on 19 November 2007, in the healthcare unit at Frankland Prison in County Durham, Straffen is Britain's longest-serving prisoner. He was incarcerated for 56 years.