Category Archives: MIscarriage of Justice
A man convicted of a Birmingham robbery has won a 28-year fight for justice after appeal judges were told of doubts about the credibility of the principal police witness.
The Court of Appeal said Martin Foran’s 1985 convictions for robbery and conspiracy to rob were unsafe and had to be quashed.
Mr Foran (above) had been given an eight-year jail term at Birmingham Crown Court after a Birmingham publican was attacked at his home.
He had twice unsuccessfully mounted appeals. But three judges upheld his latest challenge after the Criminal Cases Review Commission had presented new information at a hearing in London.
Judges were told that Mr Foran had always denied making a confession when questioned by police – and they said that issue was at the centre of the appeal.
Lord Justice Leveson, who headed the appeal panel, said Mr Foran had been interviewed by a detective who had been a member of a “now notorious” police unit.
“Twice since the convictions, appeals against the convictions have been unsuccessfully mounted to this court,” said the judge.
“On this, third, occasion, the Criminal Cases Review Commission has concluded that there is a real possibility that the convictions will not be upheld in the light of information not previously considered regarding the credibility of the principal police witness, Detective Inspector Paul Matthews, a member of the now notorious West Midlands Police Serious Crime Squad, who interviewed the appellant.”
He added: “A substantial number of convictions arising from investigations conducted by the squad have been quashed as a result of concerns regarding the working practices adopted by officers there.”
Lord Justice Leveson said “malpractice subsequently identified” in connection with the squad – which no longer exists – included “physical abuse of prisoners, fabrication of admissions, planting of evidence and mishandling of informants”.
The judge continued: “Detective Inspector Matthews has been identified in a number of cases of such malpractice and, in particular, has been associated with the fabrication of confessions.”
He went on: “Once the reliability of the police evidence is called into serious question … we have no doubt that this conviction cannot be regarded as safe.”
A man who spent 13 years in prison for a murder he did not commit has been awarded £13.2 million dollars (£8.8m) in compensation – something which could never happen in the UK which campaigners say heads the injustice league.
David Ayers of Cleveland cried as a jury found that two police detectives violated his civil rights by falsifying testimony and withholding evidence that pointed to his innocence.
The jury’s verdict on Friday, which included awarding the compensation for his pain and suffering, brings an end to the legal battle he has been fighting since his arrest in the 1999 killing of 76-year-old Dorothy Brown.
Mr Ayers was released from prison in 2011 after the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reversed his conviction and the state decided not to seek another trial.
The 56-year-old, who was a security guard for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, had been found guilty of killing Ms Brown at her CMHA apartment in Cleveland.
“This should have been stopped a long time ago,” Mr Ayers told the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper after the jury’s verdict.
“My goal is that it never happens to anyone else ever again.”
He filed his civil rights lawsuit in March 2012 against six Cleveland police officers, the city and the county housing authority.
Allegations against three of the officers, the city and the housing authority were dismissed by a judge who found that their roles did not violate Ayers’ rights.
One of the remaining officers settled out of court with Ayers for an undisclosed amount. The Friday verdict was against Michael Cipo and Denise Kovach, who were the lead detectives in the case, and have denied misconduct.
Among the most serious allegations by Mr Ayers against the two detectives were that they conspired with each other to fabricate a confession that he never made.
He also said they coerced a friend of Mr Ayers to lie by saying that Mr Ayers had told him of the murder before Ms Brown’s body was discovered, and gave key information about the crime to Mr Ayers’ prison cellmate so he could later testify against Mr Ayers about an admission he did not make.
The detectives had argued to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying that they acted in good faith and with probable cause.
Federal Judge James Gwin denied their request late last month shortly before the trial, ruling Mr Ayers had produced sufficient evidence that the detectives had violated his rights.
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said the UK had much to learn from this judgement.
“Only last month we had the sickening spectacle of Barry George [above], a man who spent eight long years in prison for the murder of Jill Dando that he did not commit, being told by our highest court that he wasn’t innocent enough to be given compensation.
“Its despicable that even had he been compensated our judges would have demanded that he pay back a proportion of his compensation for prison board and lodging – paying for eight years worth of porridge he had no right to eat and almost a decade occupying a prison bed he had no right to lay on.
“Its all very well the public and the politicians of this country saying our prisoners deserve nothing, not even the vote, but the price we all pay for that short-sighted approach is an isolated and excluded section of our society who form their own criminal communities, with their own rules and gang cultures – so next time you or your loved one are a victim of crime, remember that.”
Barry George, who spent eight years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando in Fulham, west London, has lost his High Court bid for compensation as a victim of a “miscarriage of justice”.
Two judges rejected his claim that the Justice Secretary unfairly and unlawfully decided he was “not innocent enough to be compensated”.
Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Irwin ruled that the Secretary of State was “entirely justified in the conclusion he reached.”
Ian Lawless, who spent eight years behind bars for murder before being freed by the Court of Appeal in 2009, won a similar legal challenge.
Mr Lawless was jailed for life in 2002 after confessing to the murder of retired sea captain Alf Wilkins on the Yarborough estate in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.
His conviction was later ruled unsafe after fresh medical evidence revealed he had a “pathological need for attention”.
The judges ruled that in his case the decision to refuse compensation was legally flawed and must be reconsidered in the light of their judgment.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said: “The decision for Barry George is bitterly disappointing, but it is indicative of an appellate system which has become increasingly hard line over the last few years - justice is the loser here.”
Mr George’s solicitor, Nick Baird, said: “We are very disappointed with the judgment and we shall be applying for permission to leapfrog the Court of Appeal to have the matter heard before the Supreme Court.”
Mr George, 52, came to court to seek a reconsideration of his case which could have opened the way for him to claim an award of up to £500,000 for lost earnings and wrongful imprisonment.
But the judges ruled that he had “failed the legal test” to receive an award.
Miss Dando was shot dead outside her home in Fulham in April 1999.
After his conviction in July 2001, Mr George, of Fulham, west London, was acquitted of killing the 37-year-old BBC presenter at a retrial in August 2008.
Today’s high-profile compensation action was one of five test cases assembled to decide who is now entitled to payments in “miscarriage of justice” cases following a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May 2011.
Decisions in all five cases to refuse payouts were defended by current Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in a three-day hearing last October.
Ian Glen QC, appearing for Mr George, had argued that the decision to refuse compensation was “defective and contrary to natural justice”.
Despite Mr George’s unanimous acquittal by a jury at his retrial, a Ministry of Justice “functionary” had unfairly and unlawfully decided he was “not innocent enough to be compensated”.
Yet for more than 30 years those acquitted on retrials in similar circumstances had been compensated, said Mr Glen.
The position seemed to have changed in 2008, the year Mr George was acquitted, Mr Glen went on.
“We are not sure when the policy was changed or whether it was affected by the Barry George case.”
Mr Glen said that not to treat Mr George’s acquittal as a miscarriage of justice “went behind the decision of the jury that acquitted him” and failed to take account of the fact that no safe conviction could ever be based on the evidence against him.
The judges rejected his arguments, saying: “There was indeed a case upon which a reasonable jury, properly directed, could have convicted the claimant of murder.”
Mr George’s initial claim for compensation for lost earnings and wrongful imprisonment was rejected in January 2010.
His legal challenge against that decision was put on hold until after a panel of nine Supreme Court justices gave their landmark compensation ruling in the case of Andrew Adams – a former aircraft engineer who spent 14 years in jail before his murder conviction was ruled unsafe.
After the Adams ruling, Mr George was told by the Justice Secretary in June 2011 he was still not entitled to compensation under Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
Today the judges rejected Mr George’s case along with three others. The only one to succeed was Mr Lawless.
Another 11 cases were awaiting today’s landmark ruling.
A Chinese man has received record state compensation of 825,000 yuan (£81,000) for 11 years of wrongful imprisonment.
The state-run Southern Metropolis Daily said pn Thursday that Guangdong’s provincial supreme court granted compensation to Huang Liyi, 39, for deprivation of personal freedom as well as psychological and emotional distress.
Huang’s lawyer, Yang Xuelin, said on his blog that Huang received the money on Monday.
Huang was arrested in 1999 for cheque fraud and was sentenced the next year to life in prison. Huang was acquitted in 2010 on the ground of insufficient evidence and released from jail.
Wrongful convictions are common in China’s legal system, which is notorious for using torture to extort confession from suspects.
Jeremy Bamber has lost the first stage of his latest legal move over his convictions for murdering five relatives more than 25 years ago.
A High Court judge in London has rejected his application for permission for a judicial review of a decision not to refer his case back to the Court of Appeal for the safety of his convictions to be looked at again.
The decision not to refer his case was made earlier this year by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), an independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.
A spokeswoman for the Judicial Office confirmed today that a single judge, considering the case on the papers, had turned down Bamber’s judicial review application.
It is still open to Bamber to seek to renew his application before the full court.
Bamber, who is serving a whole life term for the 1985 killings, has always protested his innocence and claims his schizophrenic sister Sheila Caffell shot her family before turning the gun on herself in a remote Essex farmhouse.
When announcing its decision in April the CCRC said that despite a lengthy and complex investigation, it “has not identified any evidence or legal argument that it considers capable of raising a real possibility that the Court of Appeal would quash the convictions”.
Mark Leech, editor of the national prisoners newspaper Converse said: “This is one of those notorious cases which will not go away, there is something deeply troubling about the case and one day I am convinced we will come to see this, and other such cases like that of Michael Stone, as terrible miscarriages of justice.”
Barry George, who spent eight years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the murder of the TV presenter Jill Dando, today launched a test case bid to overturn a “defective” decision denying him compensation.
Mr George, 52, who was cleared after a retrial in 2008, is seeking a High Court ruling that could open the way for him to claim an award of up to £500,000.
His case is one of five test cases assembled for senior judges to decide who is now entitled to payments in “miscarriages of justice” cases following a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May 2011.
Mr George’s claim for damages for lost earnings and wrongful imprisonment was rejected by the Ministry of Justice on the grounds that he was not legally entitled to compensation.
That decision is being defended by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in a three-day hearing at London’s High Court.
Ian Glen QC, appearing for Mr George, is asking Mr Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Irwin to rule the decision to deny compensation “defective and contrary to natural justice” and a breach of the right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Glen contends there is no material to suggest that an “open-minded reconsideration” of Mr George’s case has taken place at ministerial level following an original decision that was “flawed by illegality”.
The proceedings follow the Supreme Court’s redefinition of the legal meaning of what constitutes a “miscarriage of justice” after debating when compensation should be paid to people wrongly convicted of crime.
Miss Dando was shot dead outside her home in Fulham in April 1999.
After his conviction in 2001, Mr George, of Fulham, west London, was acquitted of killing the 37-year-old BBC presenter at the 2008 retrial.
The case was referred to by one of the panel of nine Supreme Court justices who gave the landmark miscarriage of justice ruling.
Lord Hope described how a particle of “firearms discharge” matching particles found in the cartridge case of the bullet which killed Miss Dando, had been found in a pocket of a coat worn by Mr George.
Evidence about the “firearms discharge” particle and its significance were called into question following a review and Mr George’s conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2007 and the retrial ordered.
When found not guilty in 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service said he “had the right to be regarded as innocent”.
In the Supreme Court ruling, the then president Lord Phillips said that the “mere quashing” of a conviction could not be a “trigger for compensation”.
He said a “miscarriage of justice” occurred when a new fact “so undermined” prosecution evidence that no conviction could “possibly be based upon it”.
He said the new “test” would not guarantee that all those entitled to compensation were “in fact innocent”.
But it would ensure that when innocent defendants were convicted on discredited evidence they were not “precluded” from obtaining compensation because they could not prove their innocence beyond reasonable doubt.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said: “It is shocking that Barry George has to fight through the courts for compensation, he spent years in jail for a crime he did not commit and now he is forced to argue before judges as to why he should be compensated for the horror of what he went through when it only adds insult to an already grievous injury.”
A man convicted and later cleared of murdering a British student in Italy almost five years ago has described the nightmare of the aftermath of her death in a new book.
Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old from Leeds University, was found semi-naked and with her throat cut in a house she shared with American student Amanda Knox in November 2007.
Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted in 2009 of killing Miss Kercher, from Coulsdon, Surrey, but were freed last October after their convictions were overturned on a lack of evidence.
Rudy Guede, a petty criminal and drug dealer from the Ivory Coast, was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering the student and is serving a 16-year-sentence.
In his book, Honour Bound, which is due out next week, Mr Sollecito maintains the couple’s innocence but acknowledges that their sometimes bizarre behaviour after Miss Kercher’s death gave police reason for suspicion.
He describes how the early days of his relationship with Miss Knox became a nightmare with the horror of Miss Kercher’s death, the misunderstandings that swept them up in the case, and their tabloid portrayals as two suspects unrecognisable to themselves.
Miss Knox became “Foxy Knoxy” and received the brunt of the attention as she shopped for underwear after the killing and turned cartwheels in front of investigators.
While police investigated the crime scene, Mr Sollecito caressed her and they kissed, unaware of the television news cameras across the street.
Later at the police station she climbed in his lap and draped her arms over him, making Sollecito uneasy, he wrote.
Police found their behaviour “odd” and he acknowledged they had no “real alibi the night of November 1 except each other”.
Mr Sollecito also criticises the police for their handling of the case, suggesting they reached for a far-fetched conspiracy instead of the simpler explanation that Guede had on his own committed a burglary gone wrong.
Mr Sollecito, then finishing his undergraduate studies in computer science, wrote about how he met Miss Knox at classical music concert a week before Miss Kercher’s death, and that they became inseparable.
He also writes about his first night in prison, saying he wavered between “great waves of indignation and a nagging sense of guilt”.
He said that while he knew he was innocent, he was angry at himself for having a foggy memory of the night of the killing because he and Knox had smoked marijuana.
When they were finally acquitted, Sollecito writes that he felt “indescribable joy”.
Miss Knox is also writing a book, due out next spring, in a deal reportedly worth £2.5 million.
Prosecutors have appealed against the acquittal of Mr Sollecito and Miss Knox, and Italy’s highest court will hear their arguments in March.
Kristine Bunch hugged her mother and her teenage son, basking in the warm Indiana sunshine for the first time following 16 years behind bars for a murder she said all along she did not commit.
Jailers released the grinning 38-year-old woman, who had traded her olive green jail clothes for a new dress, less than a half-hour after a judge granted her 5,000 US dollars cash bail at the suggestion of prosecutors.
The state plans to try her again on murder and arson charges for the 1995 fire that killed her three-year-old son.
The whirlwind that followed her arrest in 1996, when she was accused of setting the blaze that destroyed her Greensburg mobile home and claimed her son Tony’s life, seemed like a bad dream at the time, Ms Bunch said.
“I was in shock,” she said.
Being released from prison was like a dream, too, but “in a good way”, she said.
“Now, it’s like I can’t believe it’s happening,” Ms Bunch said.
The Indiana Court of Appeals last week ordered the local court to allow Ms Bunch’s release on bond while she awaits her second trial.
The appeals court ordered a new trial in March, finding that the evidence used to convict her was outdated, weak and wrongly withheld from the defence.
Ms Bunch’s lawyer, Ron Safer, said prosecutors “did exactly the right thing” by asking for a low bond, but he was disappointed they still planned another trial in light of scientific advances that he said suggest there was no real evidence of arson.
Prosecutors have had little to say except that they are seeking a gag order to restrict attorneys’ public comments on the case.
A hearing on their request is scheduled for August 30, and Ms Bunch was ordered to attend.
In the meantime, Ms Bunch said she will live with her 58-year-old mother, Susan Hubbard, and her 16-year-old son, Trenton, in nearby Columbus.
The family took Ms Bunch out for her first meal besides prison food in years, at a seafood restaurant in Columbus.
Ms Bunch said she looked forward to doing the everyday things that most people take for granted, like shopping, eating out, and using the internet, which she has never seen.
“I can learn how to Facebook,” she said. “All my friends tell me they’re on Facebook.”
But of all the technological changes since she was last out of prison, Bunch said mobile phones, which have evolved from unwieldy boxes with thick antennas to sleek little machines, impress her the most.
“I’m amazed by the cellphones,” she said.
Television and frequent visits by her mother and son kept her aware of changes in the outside world.
“He introduced me to Harry Potter,” Ms Bunch said of her son. Now, she hopes to be able to teach the teenager how to drive.
Ms Bunch was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 1996 after a Decatur County jury convicted her of murder and arson.
The same judge who sentenced her denied a 2006 petition for post-conviction relief based on new evidence.
Prosecutors said Ms Bunch poured kerosene in the bedroom of her son, Tony, and the living room of their mobile home and lit it on fire.
No clear motive was ever established, but they said Ms Bunch had asked a friend to take custody of the boy about a year before the fire so she could “get away from it all” and that she had made inconsistent statements about the blaze.
The Centre on Wrongful Convictions said investigators at the time misinterpreted burn patterns as indicating an accelerant and that there was no evidence of arson.
They also argued that advances in toxicology showed the child would have died from fire, not smoke inhalation, had the blaze been set in his room.
“It was horrible, but I knew if I held on to my faith that justice would prevail. The truth usually has a way of coming out,” Ms Hubbard, Ms Bunch’s mother, said.
Ms Bunch said a prison ministry helped her maintain her faith while she was in prison. “I knew it was going to work out in the end,” she said.
Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi has died in Tripoli, his brother said.
Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison for the 1988 bombing of a US airliner over the Scottish town which claimed 270 lives. He was released from jail on August 20 2009 on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and sent home to Tripoli with an estimated three months to live.
The decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to free the only man convicted of bombing of Pan Am flight 103 provoked an international storm.
His death at his Tripoli home at the age of 59 was announced by his son, Khaled. The bombing of the American plane, travelling from London to New York four days before Christmas, killed all 259 people on board.
Eleven residents of the Dumfries and Galloway town also died after the plane crashed down on their homes in Britain’s biggest terrorist atrocity. After protracted international pressure, Megrahi was put on trial under Scots law at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. He was found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and was ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years behind bars.
Despite claims that he could not have worked alone, and the lingering suspicion by some that he was innocent, Megrahi was the only man ever convicted over the terrorist attack. He was freed from prison having served nearly eight years of his sentence after he dropped his second appeal against conviction at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh.
Mr MacAskill’s decision to allow him to return home to die in Libya sparked international condemnation from some relatives of victims and politicians, who demanded he be returned to jail.
US families were among the most vocal critics of the decision, along with US president Barack Obama. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton branded the move “absolutely wrong”. American fury at the decision was compounded by the hero’s welcome Megrahi received in Tripoli upon his return.
Prime Minister David Cameron has also come under pressure from some US senators for an independent inquiry into the decision to free the bomber. But the move attracted support from some victims’ relatives in Britain, and high profile figures such as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
David Ben-Ayreah, a spokesman for the victims of Lockerbie families, said: “I was told seven days ago by very good sources in Tripoli that he was slipping in and out of quite deep comas, that the secondary tumours had affected his abdomen and lower chest, and that he had had three blood transfusions. His death is to be deeply regretted. As someone who attended the trial I have never taken the view that Megrahi was guilty. Megrahi is the 271st victim of Lockerbie.”
Londoner Barry George, who spent eight years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the murder of the TV presenter Jill Dando, is to fight a test case for compensation.
Mr George, 52, who was cleared after a retrial in 2008, will be one of five lead cases to be heard at the High Court in London this autumn, a judge ruled today.
The five will test the law on who is now entitled to payments in “miscarriages of justice” cases following a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May last year.
Mr George’s claim for damages for lost earnings and wrongful imprisonment was rejected by the Ministry of Justice on the grounds that he was not legally entitled to compensation.
Gordon Bishop, appearing for Mr George, from Fulham, west London, told Mr Justice Irwin his client was “very happy” that his case should go forward as a lead case.
He was still waiting to hear whether he had been granted legal aid to fight his case.
Mr Bishop said if his application was refused, he would seek a “protected costs order” to cap the amount he would have to pay if he lost.