Eddie Gilfoyle to address MPs at ‘Guilty Until Proven Innocent’ book launch
Eddie Gilfoyle will address a new parliamentary group set up to investigate concerns about miscarriages of justice. The now 55-year old man has been protesting his innocence for quarter of a century. Eddie Gilfoyle was jailed for life in 1993 for the murder of his eight and a half months pregnant wife, Paula.
Gilfoyle will be speaking at the Westminster launch of Guilty Until Proven Innocent: the crisis in our justice system at the third meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on miscarriages of justice.
- Guilty Until Proven Innocent: the crisis in our justice system is written by Justice Gap editor Jon Robins and published by Biteback Publishing with the support of Old Bailey Solicitors.
- The event is hosted by APPG chair Barry Sheerman MP and will take place on Monday, June 25, 2018 at 630PM at the House of Commons, Portcullis House, the Atlee Suite. If you would like to attend, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Speakers will include Jon Robins, Eddie Gilfoyle, Eddie’s solicitor Matt Foot, and Michael Mansfield QC.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent features 11 cases of alleged miscarriage of justice. Many of the families that feature in the book will be there, including Eddie Gilfoyle and his family.
When a miscarriage of justice case hits the headlines, it is easy to dismiss it as a shocking one-off aberration – a minor hiccup in a system that otherwise functions in an exemplary fashion. After all, we are told by politicians and lawyers that our criminal justice system is the best in the world.
Jon Robins from the introduction to Guilty Until Proven Innocent
In 2010 the Tory peer and Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein, compared the case of the Falklands veteran from Merseyside to that of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish artillery captain convicted of treason in 1894 in France. Dreyfus had been exiled to Devil’s Island in French Guiana. His wrongful conviction was a defining moment in the fight against anti-Semitism.
The tenacity with which the legal system and those responsible for the original case hold to their story and to their insistence that they were not in error is astonishing. Doubt it? Then read the history of the Birmingham Six or the Guildford Four … Or read the story of Eddie Gilfoyle.
Lord Danny Finkelstein
The strange and troubling case of Eddie Gilfoyle
The chances of overturning the conviction of Eddie Gilfoyle appeared to come to a predictable but unsatisfactory end in the High Court at the end of last year, writes Jon Robins. The now 55-year old man has been protesting his innocence for quarter of a century and neither Gilfoyle nor his growing army of supporters are likely to quietly accept the latest setback.
Eddie Gilfoyle was jailed for life in 1993 for the murder of his eight and a half months pregnant wife, Paula. She was discovered hanging by her neck in the garage at the couple’s home on the Wirral, near Liverpool.
It was always a deeply odd case. The prosecution claimed that Gilfoyle staged her suicide and that her handwritten ‘suicide’ notes were not genuine. According to one expert, the only other case of a fake suicide by hanging was Roberto Calvi, the Vatican banker found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge.
As the journalist David Jessel memorably put it Calvi’s death involved ‘international freemasonry, political corruption at the highest level, a banking scandal and the Vatican. Resources somewhat beyond Eddie Gilfoyle a washer-up of surgical instruments from the Wirral’.
Gilfoyle’s solicitor Matt Foot of Birnberg Peirce reckons that there is now ‘no hope’ of overturning the conviction despite the support of the Times which has championed the case for more than a decade. The case has been to the Court of Appeal twice – the second time on a referral from the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in 2000. The High Court last week ruled against a challenge to the CCRC’s rejection of the case last July.
The ire of the family and lawyers is now directed at the miscarriage watchdog. ‘For many years we have worked in the forlorn hope that the CCRC was capable of getting to grips with the implications of powerful new evidence for the safety of a jury verdict,’ Matt Foot says.
The lawyer points out that the latest development follows ‘a shocking original police investigation, non disclosures and misjudgments that over many years prevented the dreadful, wrongful conviction of Eddie Gilfoyle from being reversed’. The original investigation which, for the first 48 hours assumed a suicide, trashed the crime scene: cutting Paula’s body down; failing to take photographs or check her body temperature to establish time of death; and it even managed to lose key evidence such as the rope.
Perhaps even more alarming was the subsequent murder investigation – for example, a rope presented to the jury as a ‘practice noose’ was (it was later revealed) discovered in the garage two weeks after the police made their original search. A credible witness was not called at trial who convincingly recollected speaking to Paula in the post office after Gilfoyle was supposed to have murdered his wife.
Earlier this year there was the launch of a new all-party parliamentary group on miscarriages of justice at the House of Commons hosted by the Labour MP Barry Sheerman.
There will be no shortage of burning issues to keep its MPs busy. Serial disclosure failures; a growing scandal in forensics; increasing alarm over the investigation and prosecution of fresh allegations into decades-old claims of sexual abuse cases; and then there are the consequences of the Supreme Court ruling that the controversial common law doctrine of joint enterprise had taken ‘a wrong turn’. One hopes the group will also consider the outrageous lack of compensation for the victims of miscarriages of justice as highlighted in the Victor Nealon/ Sam Hallam test case which goes to the Supreme Court in the new year.
Much of its time will inevitably be spent on looking at the fraught relationship between the Court of Appeal and the CCRC and whether the latter is watchdog or lapdog.
In the commission’s 20 year history the CCRC has only referred two cases back to the appeal judges on a second referral (one is Tony Stock). As has been reported previously on the Justice Gap the CCRC is now referring fewer cases in percentage terms than the Home Office did through the shadowy and discredited C3 unit. At the end C3 was receiving about 900 applications and referring about nine cases a year (1%). In the CCRC’s annual report that last year they referred just 12 cases (0.77%).
The CCRC is ‘clearly stuck in settled thinking that refuses to refer back cases that have previously been refused by the Court of Appeal’, Matt Foot told the Justice Gap. ‘We are compelled to conclude there is no hope – no hope of establishing the truth for an innocent, wronged man and no hope of having a courageous, serious organisation capable of righting terrible historic wrongs.’
‘Despite the creation of the CCRC 20 years ago, the number of cases referred to the Court of Appeal is pitifully small and wrongful convictions which are referred remain largely uncorrected,’ comments Sheerman. ‘I hope that the APPG on miscarriages of justice will provide a forum from which we can work together to improve access to justice for those who have been convicted of crimes they did not convict and, ultimately, prevent wrongful convictions.’
The CCRC first received the latest application from Eddie Gilfoyle’s family in 2010 following the dramatic appearance of the full set of Paula’s teenage diaries. The police had had them since at least 1994.
Some 17 witnesses told the jury that ‘bubbly’ Paula was cheerful at the prospect of motherhood and had no history of depression. In 2010 we realized learned that her first boyfriend was a convicted murderer and rapist. Gilfoyle’s lawyers reckoned that this amounted to ‘appalling mental trauma’ for Paula. Suicide and depression were notable features in the diaries: there was an earlier suicide attempt and a suicide letter from another fiancé which used the same wording as Paula’s own suicide note. The CCRC reckoned that the diaries did not reveal ‘anything more than adolescent experiences’.
The Court of Appeal in 2000 controversially held that the tie of the knot meant it was impossible for Paula to have done it single-handedly. A point attacked by Gilfoyle’s lawyers in their latest application and which the CCRC acknowledged was possible albeit unlikely.
The Court of Appeal seems to have no problem with the fact that the original rope, knot and all, had been thrown away at the post mortem. How the knot was tied was based upon the recollection of the coroner’s officer who had originally taken control of the crime scene and who was convinced that Paula had taken her own life. The lawyers describe the CCRC’s approach to the rope as ‘marbelled through with incomprehension or illogical reasoning’.
The High Court insisted that the CCRC’s had not been flawed in its approach but also dismissed Gilfoyle’s lawyers arguments. Matt Foot notes that the court spent 60 pages ‘insisting that there is nothing in our challenge’. ‘People might well think that speaks for itself,’ he adds.
This article was published May 25, 2018. A version of this article appeared on the Justice Gap in November last year here.