Five men to have murder convictions quashed following a major disclosure failure

Photo by gipukan, Flickr creative comms (Rob Gipman).

Five men who have spent seven years in jail for conspiracy to murder are expected to have their convictions quashed this week following a major disclosure failure.

Last month the Criminal Cases Review Commission referred to the Court of Appeal the conspiracy to murder convictions of Wassab Khan, Faisal Saraj, Abdul Jabbar, Abdul Maroof and Omran Rashid. The five men were convicted in November 2011 for their parts in the shooting of Mohammed Afsar. Khan, Maroof and Rashid were sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment and the two younger men, Saraj and Jabbar, were sentenced to 20 years’ detention in a young offender institution.

In June 2013 the Court of Appeal dismissed their appeals. According to the CCRC, no application was made however in January this year, the Crown Prosecution Service approached the watchdog with information arising in a separate case which had a possible bearing on the safety of the convictions.

‘The material, which is of a sensitive nature, is potentially relevant to the jury’s consideration of whether their intention had been to commit grievous bodily harm rather than to murder,’ the CCRC said.

The material on which the CCRC referral is based is of ‘a sensitive nature’. ‘Neither it, nor the detailed circumstances of its discovery, can safely be made public or disclosed to the defence,’ the CCRC said. The commission included the sensitive material in a confidential annex for the Court of Appeal which, it said, will not be supplied to the appellants or their legal representatives. It will then be for the Court of Appeal to decide whether any further disclosure is possible.

According to a report in the Times this morning, the men’s barrister said it was ‘hard to think of a more serious perversion of the course of justice’. Charter Solicitors said that the case had been reviewed ‘ten or 12 times over the last seven years — those are the numbers of opportunities missed by the prosecutors and police’.

The legal team pointed out that the new material was either held by the police or prosecutors, and the basis of the prosecution was false, or it was held other agencies such as security services who failed to bring it to the attention of prosecutors. ‘In either case, it is hard to think of a more serious perversion of the course of justice than to allow a trial on such a serious charge to take place, and convictions to be obtained, when knowingly holding material which shows that the charge should not have been brought,’ Alistair Webster QC said.

It was reported that the classified evidence emerged during another retrial of a case handled by the same solicitors.

Author: Jon Robins

Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon’s books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council’s journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year’s Criminal Justice Alliance’s journalism award

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