Wednesday, 28 September 2016

On the 31st Anniversary of Jeremy's Wrongful Imprisonment

With the thirty first anniversary of my wrongful imprisonment just around the corner, I have been thinking a bit about the Jury verdict and what that meant. I was not convicted on a unanimous decision but by a 10:2 majority verdict, which is very important for a number reasons and I would like to discuss two of these.

The first issue is that during my Trial, the Court usher and others had noticed that one of the Jurors was seen to be asleep on several occasions whilst witness evidence was being given. I clearly recall that not only were his eyes closed but his head was tilted back, his mouth was open and he was snoring quite audibly. The Juror next to him kept nudging him to wake him up, though effective for a minute or two it wasn’t long before he started snoring again. 

On Friday 17th October prior to the commencement of proceedings, which coincidentally was the second day of my evidence, the usher brought this matter to the attention of Mr Arlidge the Prosecution QC who in turn informed the Judge. The fact that this issue had been officially reported should have led the Judge to dismiss this sleeping Juror member from continuing to serve. Geoffrey Rivlin, my Defence QC asked me if I wanted the Juror to be kicked out, but Rivlin’s advice to me was that the Juror should stay. I didn’t know the procedure nor the implications of this decision and so I did what I was advised to do. In hindsight that was a bad mistake because the last thirty years could have been so very different and I will explain why.


As I have stated the Jury found me guilty on a 10:2 majority verdict. The facts are that unfortunately we simply don’t know whether the sleeping Juror was one of the ten who found me guilty or was one of the two who concluded that I was not guilty.  The chances of it being a Juror who found in favour of a guilty verdict equates at 83.4%, there was a 50/50 possibility of the sleeping Juror being one of the two who voted not guilty but as a percentage of the twelve Jurors it works out at just an 8.3% chance. Looking at these figures it would be reasonable to conclude that the sleeping Juror voted guilty, had he been dismissed during the Trial then a 9:2 verdict would have been returned and ultimately this would have resulted in an acquittal[1].

In the days when hanging was in place, no man or woman was hanged if the Jury had reached a 10:2 majority verdict, the Home Secretary of the day would commute the death penalty to a prison sentence.  In 1994 I was informed that in 1988 Douglas Hurd the Home Secretary had changed the sentence, which was set by the Judge at my Trial of twenty-five years to a whole life tariff. There are currently around fifty prisoners serving a whole life tariff, only one it seems, me, has had this sentence imposed even though I was convicted on a 10:2 majority and not a unanimous verdict. As a result this whole life tariff is in effect a living death penalty yet history shows that I would not have been sentenced to death before the death penalty was abolished.

Inheritance

The second issue is that whilst considering their verdict the Jury asked a number of questions which were directed to the Trial Judge. One was on certain specific aspects of the forensic issues which had been given in evidence whilst a further question concerned the issue of who would inherit my parent’s estate, with the Jury specificallyasking if the beneficiaries could be any of the prosecution witnesses. They were told that certainly none of the prosecution witnesses would inherit any of the estate belonging to my mum and dad. The conclusion reached at trial being that no one had a clue who might inherit the estate.

On 3rd July 1986, some months prior to my Trial the Will of my grandmother, Mabel Speakman was given Probate. Her estate was valued at £70,963. However, gran had inherited all of mum and dad’s estate prior to her death. Upon her death her estate, including that of my parents, was inherited by her daughter, mum’s sister, Pamela Boutflour.

The Jury weren’t told that gran had inherited my parent’s estate, or that this estate was settled prior to Trial with Auntie Pam being the sole beneficiary. Had they been informed the Jury might have had a very different view of certain prosecution witnesses and their boasts to the Jury of huge wealth, when until July 1986 Pamela and Robert had wealth amounting to just a few thousand pounds.

It seems reasonable to conclude that Essex Police might have known of this issue and possibly proceeded to investigate matters, and others involving allegations of fraud committed by my relatives. For example those later reported by the farm secretary Barbara Wilson, but police conducted the investigation in a way that ensured findings simply went nowhere.  They stalled until after my first Appeal 1988 and after a Court battle between other family members fighting for their share of the family estate. And so the fraud case dragged on over eight years and then was dropped with no action being taken.

Had the Jury known about how gran’s Will was changed to exclude me, or that mum and dad’s estate had already been inherited prior to Trial by some of the main Prosecution witnesses then their question to the Judge asking who the beneficiaries were would not have been asked. Had the CPS known about this it would have been unlikely that I would have gone to Trial, obviously certain witnesses and their evidence would have been viewed as financially motivated. Sadly it seems that the Court/the CPS and the Defence were all kept in the dark about the money issue and misled about the actual forensics in my case.

Looking back

Now in 2016 after thirty one years in jail and the numerous changing of the goal posts, I still cannot obtain disclosure of key documents in this case including DCI Kenneally’s 6th September 1985 report which stated as a conclusion that: “The evidence indicates that Sheila was responsible”, a report written one month after the tragedies.

On 8th September 1985 I was taken into custody, on 13th September 1985 the D.P.P concluded that there was insufficient evidence available to charge me with the murder of my family – I was released from custody. Between 13th and 23rd September 1985 new evidence was put before the D.P.P. and on the 26th September 1985 it was decided that I could be charged with five counts of murder.

On 29th September 1985 I was re-arrested and charged with murder x 5 and I have been in custody ever since. What would the Jury think now after so much evidence has been unearthed considering the troubling questions they put to the Trial Judge?

In any event, how can it be right to give a man a whole life tariff to a person convicted on a 10:2 majority verdict with a Jury member having fallen asleep during proceedings and given a whole life tariff when the Trial Judge stated my sentence was set at 25 years.

So on this thirtieth year of my wrongful conviction it is extremely saddening to realise that had aspects of the Trial been handled correctly and the truth told it would have seen such a very different outcome for me. The fact that the Jury were misled on key points of evidence, and only eleven of the twelve jurors were actually paying attention to the evidence and not falling asleep is so hugely important. Had the verdict been 9:2 which seems probable I would have left the Court on the 28th October 1986 quite rightly as a free man.

Jeremy







[1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/23/section/17 : “Subject to subsections (3) and (4) below, the verdict of a jury in proceedings in the Crown Court or the High Court need not be unanimous if—
(a)in a case where there are not less than eleven jurors, ten of them agree on the verdict; and
(b)in a case where there are ten jurors, nine of them agree on the verdict”.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

"Justice is never served by the conviction of the innocent" by Michelle Bates on the 31st Anniversary of the tragedies



"It was well after midnight on August 6th 1985 and I couldn’t sleep. Switching on the T.V., I absent-mindedly tuned into a news channel. We were living in Co. Cork, in Southern Ireland, and I was joyfully awaiting the birth of our first child who was already overdue, making me feel restless; that was why I was up and about at such an hour.


Becoming aware of a breaking-news story I began to listen in more closely. A siege was taking place at a farmhouse in England. The broadcaster relayed that five people were inside and there was great fear for their safety. As the story unfolded it became apparent that this was an older couple. A farmer and retired Magistrate, Nevill Bamber and his wife, June; their daughter, Sheila, and her six year old twin sons. Jeremy, their son, was outside with police who were trying to communicate with someone inside the house who had been seen pacing back and forth in front of an upstairs window and carrying a firearm. The reporter said that police were reluctant to get too close to the house for fear of causing that person to become more agitated, thereby, escalating the danger to the family. I watched for an hour or so but there was no resolution and, heavily pregnant, I became exhausted and had to go off to bed.


Awaking early I was anxious for news, hopefully of a rescue, so I put the News on immediately. The siege was over, police had stormed the house and five bodies had been found inside. I was heartbroken, a whole family! My heart went out to the young man who had waited all night long with the police for news of his family; this was not what he wanted to hear.


My own child was born a few days later and I became engrossed in motherhood. It was a real shock to hear, sometime later, that the son, Jeremy Bamber, had been arrested for the killings…how was that possible when he was outside during the siege and everyone knew that? I presumed the police knew something we did not; there must have been strong evidence to convict a man of killing his entire family…I pushed my unease aside and got on with motherhood and my own life.


Since then I have revisited the facts of this case in light of so many high-profile miscarriage of justice cases coming to light, including that of my own brother, Barry George, for the murder of Jill Dando. More recently we’ve heard of the lies and cover-ups in the Hillsborough deaths and The Chilcot report exposing the same type of cover ups in the Iraqi war scandal. In the Bamber case I can find no evidence to convince me of the guilt of this man. Nothing that can account for a man languishing in jail for more than thirty years. How did a jury convict a young man without proof?


Our justice system is predicated on the ‘presumption of innocence’ and also on ‘beyond reasonable doubt,’ but there is so much doubt surrounding this conviction that this case must be looked into again, urgently. The CCRC and the Court of Appeal seem to be reluctant to do this, and the police, for their part, have been withholding evidence from the defendant. It will cost thousands of pounds to, again, take them to court to force them to hand over the papers and forensic results that the court has already told them they must do. They have also effectively ‘locked down’ documents in the case under a PII* order; what is there to hide? Meanwhile, a man is fighting a conviction for multiple murders that there is no proof he committed. Surely this is not the justice system his father, a Magistrate was proud to be a part of?


On this, the thirty-first anniversary of these tragic deaths, I again call for the case against Jeremy to be reviewed.


Justice is never served by the conviction of the innocent."


*During the course of an investigation, the police may come into possession of sensitive material. This material may potentially be reasonably considered capable of undermining the case for the prosecution against the accused and/or of assisting the case for the accused. Nonetheless it may be withheld by the Crown under the “public interest immunity” (“PII”) principles. http://www.inbrief.co.uk/police/public-interest-immunity/


Michelle Bates is the sister of Barry George who was wrongly convicted in 2001 of the killing of T.V. presenter, Jill Dando. His conviction was quashed at appeal in 2007 and in 2008 he was retried and found, unanimously, not guilty. Barry has never been awarded compensation for this wrongful conviction on the grounds that he is ‘not innocent enough', having failed to ‘prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubt.’ Michelle is backing a campaign to amend the Criminal Justice act, section 133, which affects many whose convictions have been overturned, or who have been found not guilty at retrial. Currently Michelle is writing a book about her family’s eight year fight for justice for Barry, to raise awareness of the struggles faced by all those who get caught up in miscarriage of justice.


Article in The Justice Gap by Michelle Bates

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bamber on the "Brexit" Part II

I’ve previously blogged about how leaving the safety of the EU would affect the United Kingdom with regards to potential future conflict and I know that seemed to be laughed off by those who proposed leaving the EU when Cameron made mention of it.  Last century we were warring with Europe like crazy, now I hear people say that could never happen again.  Well, war is what can so easily happen when the talking stops between nations.   However, today I wish to write about the legal impact of leaving the EU.   I’ve had a ringside seat to the legal side of things for over thirty years and I’ve seen how the state has simply messed things up.

Firstly, the public need legal protection from our government not through our own courts but by the European Courts.  The Human Rights Act isn’t some liberal nonsense dreamt up by idiots but it is the outcome of critical thought by the world’s best legal minds.  There has to be a way to prevent a state from going wrong and from my understanding whether we remain in Europe or leave we will still be protected by the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) as one of the founding signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights in 1951.  We will, however, no longer be protected by the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU’), which is responsible for ensuring that European law is interpreted and applied in the same way in every member state and is currently the highest court of appeal in the UK on EU matters and whose judgments we are obliged to follow.

The CJEU has the task of supervising the uniform application of EU law throughout the member states and in so doing it can create case law.   It is important not to confuse it with the ECHR, which is completely separate and not an institution of the EU. The majority of cases heard by the CJEU are brought by member states and institutions of the Community, or are referred to it by national courts.  It has only limited power to deal with cases brought by individual citizens, and such cases are rarely heard.

Luckily for the UK, the print media is in competition from the Internet, so public opinion cannot be twisted and moulded by what the Daily Mail says.   It’s all too cosy when an MP like Whittingdale avoids media ridicule, with a coincidence that he allowed the press to self regulate.   Who knows if the two are linked by the legal system, the penal system? Parliament and the press can get quite cosy together if allowed to, but if a person is a victim of that relationship then as a last resort there is the European Court.

A new thing by the state is that prisons are going to be able self-determine certain aspects of what they do, but I believe you have to have one prison system ruled by centralised governance maintaining a rule book of prison service orders and prison service instructions. That way the staff know exactly what’s what and so do all the prisoners.

The staff who look after a country’s law breakers appear to have been overlooked by those who want to leave Europe.  They are for the most part good people who rarely get the recognition they deserve.  The dynamic within prison between officers and prisoners is complex, when it goes wrong like the Strangeways riot, prison officers have to sort that out.   Having both the European Courts in place protects the rights of the imprisoned and protects prison officers from unrest in prison.   Access to legal resolution of problems in prison has stopped many potential riots.   Our government is motivated by revenge justice with little or no sympathy for the imprisoned and it is the impartial Courts in Europe that stop the worst excesses of how Parliament views those imprisoned and those who look after the imprisoned.  

It is concerning that voting to leave Europe on the 23rd June would eventually see the protection offered to us by the European Court of Justice redacted. Cameron states that we must remain within the European Union and I agree that we should. However it is of great concern that Cameron still maintains his intentions to scrap the Human rightsAct and create the “British Bill of Rights” in its place.  Whatever decision is made as a result of the referendum we cannot allow Cameron to go ahead with these ridiculous and dangerous proposals. I have written previously about how important it is for us as a Nation and as individual citizens to have the protection of the Human Rights Act. This Act should be left as it is with the assurances we will remain within the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.


Jeremy

Jeremy Bamber

Jeremy Bamber
Innocent Jeremy Bamber