For over four decades Tony Stock protested his innocence and fought to overturn a conviction for his part in a brutal robbery of a Tesco store in a shopping centre Leeds. His case was to go before the Court of Appeal four times as well as the European Court of Human Rights, and until recently it was the only case that the CCRC had referred to the Court of Appeal for a second time.
Tony Stock died in November 2012 at the age of 73 years. His death was sudden an unexpected. He fought to clear his name until the day he died. His fight continues.
At the launch of a book into the case on October 20th 2014, a new posthumous attempt to clear Tony Stock’s name was announced at an event in Parliament sponsored by Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield who called the Stock case ‘one of the most outrageous miscarriages of modern times’.
The book The First Miscarriage of Justice: The ‘Amazing and Unreported’ Case of Tony Stock (published last month by the Waterside Press) by JusticeGap editor Jon Robins tells the story of one man’s 43 year fight to clear his name.
The book has been written with the support of Tony Stock’s lawyer of 20 years Glyn Maddocks and Ralph Barrington, the former head of the Essex CID. As a result of research for this book, Ralph Barrington (who was the investigations adviser at the CCRC for 13 years) believes that he has found new evidence and new arguments that completely ‘undermine any suggestion that there was ever anything remotely fair about Tony’s conviction’.
‘The importance of this relatively unknown case for the public is that it should be recognised and heeded for what it is. Not just a massive blot on the judicial landscape but a blot which has haemorrhaged to become the landscape itself. The Stock story should be mandatory reading for everyone, not merely those involved with the law. It concerns the quality of our criminal justice system and its continued reluctance and unwillingness to root out injustice.’
Michael Mansfield QC, from the foreword
‘Sadly Tony is no longer with us, but his epic fight for justice continues. What does it say about our criminal justice system, if such an outrageous injustice is left to stand uncorrected?’
Barry Sheerman MP
‘Jon Robins’ book is not the end of this story. The detailed research for the book has shone a new and more searching light on everything that has happened since 1970 and I believe there is enough new material to make another make another application to the CCRC and hopefully get this case back to the Court of Appeal for a fifth time. Sadly any success we might have will have come too late for Tony, but we hope that the fact that we have not given up on him will be of some comfort to his family.’
Ralph Barrington, former head of Essex CID
‘Sadly, Tony knew that time was running out for him and he wanted above all else, to achieve justice before he died. He didn’t achieve this. His fight for justice must and will continue.’
Glyn Maddocks, Tony Stock’s solicitor
Leeds, West Yorkshire, one Saturday night in January 1970. The manager of the Tesco store at the Merrion Centre carries the day’s taking across to the Lloyd’s Bank nightsafe. The cashier’s boyfriend walks alongside. It’s dark and it’s rainy. People queue for the cinema. War and Peace is playing at the Odeon. The two men are rushed by a gang of men, coshed, the money grabbed. The thieves speed off in their getaway car. Jon Robins (for openDemocracy, November 6 2014).
Only one witness is able to provide an identification. Tesco’s warehouse manager, Stewart Wilson, heard his colleagues’ screams, ran to help, locked eyes, for a moment, with one of the robbers. Wilson is shown police photographs of local criminals. The next day Wilson assists in the making of an identikit picture. It looks a lot like Tony Stock.
A few days later police officers from Leeds arrive at the home of Tony Stock, a 30 year old father of four who lives in Stockton-on-Tees, 72 miles north of Leeds. He denies having anything to do with the robbery and refuses to stand on an identity parade.
With nothing else to go on, DS Mather — a young detective who came across Stock in connection with another investigation — decides to do something highly unorthodox. He and another officer drive their witness 72 miles up the A1 to Stock’s home. When Stock comes to the door they keep it open long enough for Wilson to get a look at him. There’s a scuffle. Wilson positively identifies Stock and Stock is arrested. Later both officers will write in their notebooks that, on seeing Wilson, Stock shouts: ‘Get that man out of here, he knows me’.
Then the police do something else that would have been considered highly unusual even by the standards of 1970s policing. The two officers pile into their two-door Mini Cooper with their witness and their suspect for the 72 mile drive back down to Leeds.
The case against Stock consists mainly of Wilson’s identification and a series of apparently self-incriminating statements the police claimed Stock had said, including an exchange with Mather in the cells when he is claimed to have said: ‘the wife will get my share if the worst happens’.
Stock’s defence is that the police are lying. He insists that on the night of the robbery he was at home with his family — his wife Brenda and their four children, all under the age of 10 — celebrating his 30th birthday. There’s a three-day trial in July 1970. Stock’s wife and his 9-year old daughter Charlene testify that he was home that night at his birthday party. Tony Stock is found guilty and sentenced to 10 years.
Stock spends most of the next six years at high security HMP Gartree in Leciestershire. He proclaims his innocence through a series of rooftop protests and a hunger strike. Prison wardens force-feed him by wedging a wooden block at the back of his throat with a circular hole through which a pipe is fed. Sometimes they use vaseline to smooth the pipe’s passage, sometimes not.
Tony Stock ends his hunger strike after 93 days, his health shattered, teeth lost, one leg in a calliper. His mother’s health fails, his marriage collapses and his wife divorces him.
Stock appeals for help to Tom Sargant, the first secretary of the human rights group JUSTICE. ‘If you look at the verbal you will see how utterly stupid it is,’ Stock writes of the self-incriminating statements the police attributed to him. His solicitor backs him up, telling Sargant that this was ‘perhaps the first case… where I have felt that a man has been “framed”‘.
Meanwhile, DS Mather’s career stalls. He’s put under suspension and charged with corruption over the taking of bribes. The judge at his trial at Leeds Crown Court in 1972 says that Mather and a fellow officer were ‘either corrupt or stupid’, decides that they are ‘complete idiots’ and acquits them. Mather is put on traffic duty. Later, Mather is presented with 90 charges relating to disciplinary matters and resigns from the force. His file goes to the Director of Public Prosecutions — no charges are brought.
Tony Stock leaves prison in 1976. He remarries, has two more children, starts a business selling carpets. One day, out of the blue, a reporter from the Yorkshire Post knocks on his door: is he was aware that someone has just confessed to the Leeds robbery? Professional robber Samuel Benefield, a member of the Chainsaw gang, has turned supergrass and owned up to all his past work including the Leeds robbery.
‘Squealer clears Identikit victim,’ is the headline in the Daily Mail.
A World in Action on Stock’s case airs at the end of 1979. The programme closes on Stock’s happy expectation of a pardon.
But Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw decides not pardon Stock. He cites an internal and still secret report by West Yorkshire Police into the alleged perjury of the two officers.
Some 26 years after Stock’s conviction, his case finally reaches the Court of Appeal in 1996. The star witness is supergrass Samuel Benefield, heavily disguised (headscarf, fake beard, sunglasses) and fearful of reprisals from his former gang mates. Benefield testifies that he and his gang did the Leeds job and Stock had nothing to do with it. But the Court decides Benefield is lying and rejects the appeal.
The very next year the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) comes into being. The first state-funded organisation in the world to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice, it is established in response to a series of wrongful convictions — the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven, Judith Ward — that rock public confidence in the justice system.
The Commission has the power to send or refer a case back to the Court of Appeal, and it can compel documents to be produced. The Commission obtains that 1979 report into the internal inquiry by West Yorkshire Police and discovers that the report accepted the supergrass’s account of things and that his evidence ‘inevitably casts doubt’ on the safety of Stock’s conviction. What’s more, the internal inquiry found that eye-witness Stewart Wilson, before making the identikit image, was shown photographs that most likely included a picture of Tony Stock. Surely that revelation blew away the last shred of credibility of the original investigation?
Not for the Court of Appeal, which rejected Stock’s case again in 2004 and yet again in 2008.
Ralph Barrington, a former head of Essex CID who went on to advise the Criminal Cases Review Commission for 13 years, described that final 2008 Appeal Court judgment as having “defied gravity”.
Barrington was so outraged that he decided to document what he believes is a ‘self evident injustice’ on retirement.
With the support of Ralph Barrington and Tony Stock’s solicitor of 20 plus years, Glyn Maddocks, I’ve researched and written a book on the case, that’s just been published. Barrington and Maddocks are working on a new attempt to have this conviction overturned. We hope justice is finally done.
In his foreword to the book, Michael Mansfield QC, who acted for the Birmingham Six, the Bridgewater Four, the Cardiff Three and for Tony Stock in his 1996 and 2004 appeals, says Stock’s case illustrates the criminal justice system’s ‘serious reluctance and unwillingness to root out injustice’.
Labour MP for Huddersfield Barry Sheerman says the case is ‘one of the most outrageous miscarriages of justice in modern times’.
Mansfield says: ‘The importance of this relatively unknown case for the public is that it should be recognised and heeded for what it is: not just a massive blot on the judicial landscape but a blot which has haemorrhaged to become the landscape itself.’
Stock always claimed that he had been fitted up by the police. He spent 43 years fighting to clear his name. Each time the case came to court, his hopes would be raised and cruelly crushed again. He never gave up. I met him three years ago this month to talk about the writing of the book. He told me how he was spending his pension on a private investigator, how he hoped to find fresh evidence in a crime that took place more than four decades ago. Tony Stock died on November 29 2012, aged 73.
The case of Tony Stock is ‘shocking’. It involves disturbing allegations of police corruption as well as well-documented evidence of organised crime – the staples of many other ‘shocking’ miscarriages of justice. Daily Mail, November 11 1979. Jon Robins, for The Times, November 6 2014
But the case is perhaps most ‘shocking’ in what it reveals about our criminal justice system and, in particular, the reluctance of the Court of Appeal to satisfactorily deal with what many argue is ‘a self evident injustice’.
The prosecution case was always a castle built on sand: a single and highly controversial identification based upon a two to three second sighting of one witness on a dark night. There were more than 20 witnesses. It was a dark and wet night – only one witness could make a meaningful description.
The original case against Tony Stock was always ‘paper thin’, reckons Michael Mansfield QC. ‘But whatever there was at the start was reduced to rubble over the course of four appeals,’ he adds. The human rights lawyer acted for Tony Stock in appeals in 1996 and again in 2004.
In 1996 when the supergrass, Samuel Benefield came to the Court of Appeal under the witness protection scheme, he admitted to his involvement with the robbery and testified that Stock was not involved. The court didn’t accept his evidence. The reason for that surprising decision was, Lord Justice Judge explained, because of the supergrass’s description of his gang’s return journey. That was ‘outside any possible contemplation’, so utterly illogical as to completely blow his credibility.
The year after that failed appeal and the Criminal Cases Review Commission opened for business. The CCRC has unprecedented statutory powers which meant it could compel documents to be produced. It obtained a 1979 internal report by West Yorkshire Police into the alleged perjury of Mather and his colleague.
This was an internal investigation never meant to see the light of day.
The police accepted the truth of the supergrass (although they found no evidence of criminality on the part of Mather and his colleague). Such was the detail provided by Samuel Benefield, who was interviewed three times, that it ‘inevitably casts doubt’ on the safety of the conviction. The police had no problem with the gang’s return journey.
Tony Stock’s lawyers tried to get hold of the secret report ahead of the 1996 appeal. The Crown Prosecution Service blocked them and cited public interest immunity. The lawyers challenged this only to be told by the Court of Appeal that its contents were ‘either not relevant or not worth fighting for’.
The former CCRC commissioner Laurie Elks sees Tony Stock’s travails in the Court of Appeal as an example of a worrying shift by the Appeal judges from a broader ‘holistic’ approach to a narrower ‘atomistic’ approach. On any ‘holistic’ analysis the prosecution case against Stock has been almost entirely washed away. However, according to the Court of Appeal’s ‘atomistic’ approach, on each subsequent appeal it regards the prosecution case as watertight and the impact of new evidence is only considered in the narrowest possible terms.
Last month one final posthumous attempt at justice was announced at an event in parliament hosted by Barry Sheerman who has supported Tony Stock for over two decades. Laurie Elks also spoke at the launch. The former CCRC commissioner argued that if the Commission failed to refer the case then the family could launch a judicial review to force a referral. ‘If on the other hand, the judiciary closes ranks and decides that it is expedient to perpetuate this miscarriage of justice, then it will be a matter for politicians and legislators to resolve,’ he said.
From the introduction of The First Miscarriage of Justice. By Jon Robins.
‘I would have been the first miscarriage of justice. There was a spate of cases: the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Cardiff Three. Each one was another nail in my coffin.’
Tony Stock to Jon Robins, 2007
The year that Tony Stock was convicted for his part in a violent robbery which took place outside a Tesco store in a shopping centre in Leeds, Edward Heath became British prime minister and Prince Charles graduated with a 2ii from Cambridge.
The quote at the top of the article was his response to a question of mine when I interviewed him for The Times in 2007. I had asked him how he felt when he discovered in 1979 that someone else had just admitted to the crime that he had served six years for and that he could soon expect a pardon.
Shockwaves through the justice system
Clearly, Tony Stock was not the ‘first’ miscarriage of justice. For as long as there has been a criminal justice system, ‘justice’ has miscarried. Yet we know what Tony Stock meant when he said he would have been ‘the first’. What he meant was that his campaign to clear his name pre-dated the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and all those other scandals that sent shockwaves through our criminal justice system.
On 14 March 1991, Paddy Hill, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter, Billy Power and Johnny Walker with Chris Mullin MP stood outside the Old Bailey free after 16 years, having had their convictions over- turned for the murder of 21 people in two pubs in Birmingham.
That famous image of the Birmingham Six was taken 21 years after Tony Stock began his campaign to clear his name. His case had already been rejected by the Court of Appeal and gone to the European Court of Human Rights by the time the two bombs ripped apart two pubs in Birmingham and appalled a nation.
The release of the Birmingham Six set in train a series of events. Such was the level of public and political concern that a Royal Commission was established and, ultimately, the collapse of public confidence led to the creation of an independent body to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice.
That body, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, was set up 15 years ago. Tony Stock was one of its first applicants. His case went on to acquire the dubious accolade of being the first one to have been referred back to the appeal court twice by the Commission.
Until very recently, the Stock case was the only one to have been sent back by the Commission for a second time. The hope is that the CCRC will make a third referral.
When Tony Stock was sent down in 1970 the cause of prisoners alleging to be victims of ‘miscarriages of justice’ did not attract much mainstream interest, let alone support, other than from pioneering campaigners such as Tom Sargant, the first secretary of the law reform group JUSTICE. Within weeks of arriving at Gartree Prison, Tony Stock was to strike up an extraordinary correspondence with Sargant. Astonishingly, Tom Sargant was almost immediately convinced of Stock’s innocence and fought to clear his name until he had to retire from JUSTICE owing to ill health in 1985.
Wrongful convictions, with their difficult characters and complex narratives, became an unlikely staple of our broadcasting schedules through the 1980s and the 1990s as a result of pioneering TV programmes such as the BBC’s Rough Justice and Channel Four’s Trial & Error.
Tony Stock was one of the first cases to be given the television treatment when it was made the subject of a World in Action one-off in 1979. Now some 22 years after the release of the Birmingham Six, it seems that the issue of ‘miscarriages of justice’ has dropped from the radar of public awareness. The BBC pulled the plug on Rough Justice after 25 years in 2007.
It’s not credible to dismiss the issue of wrongful conviction as a problem solved since we stopped locking up Irishmen for crimes they didn’t commit. That would be ludicrous.
The CCRC receives close to 1,000 new applications every year—last year it made the application form more user-friendly to reach out to less literate prisoners and, as a result, received a record-breaking 1,500 applications. So far the CCRC has referred some 560 cases back to the Court of Appeal. Three-hundred-and-seventy-two convictions have been quashed and it has looked at over 16,500 cases.
By calling my book The First Miscarriage of Justice, I am not making a point about scale. In the dismal roll-call of miscarriages of justice over the last 40 years, there are many alleged crimes that are far more heinous than this 1970s robbery — after all, nobody died.
Tony Stock himself was making a very different point. He was suggesting that these shocking cases which so scandalised the public might have raised people’s awareness about wrongful convictions but, ironically, the headlines of those other cases only served to lessen his prospects of success.
That is in no way to diminish what was a violent and terrifying crime. Nor is it to belittle what happened to Tony Stock. That was a disaster, not just for Stock but for his young family — he was the father of four children all under the age of ten years when he was sent to prison.
Some of those relationships which were severed in the most dramatic way in 1970 did not heal within Tony Stock’s lifetime. His heartbroken mother never recovered from the shock. When we talk of a victim of a miscarriage of justice, we should be mindful that there are multiple victims—not least, the victims of the crimes.
The ‘amazing’ and ‘unreported’ case of Tony Stock
The outrage that the Tony Stock case provokes to this day derives from the belief of many who have followed the case that our criminal justice system, which we are always told is so envied throughout the world, repeatedly has failed to recognise what appears to be such an obvious miscarriage.
If anything could go wrong in the case of Tony Stock, it did.
Such was the tenacity of Tony Stock’s personal campaign in the face of years of unrelenting bad luck that the man persuaded successive generations of academics, lawyers, journalists and police officers to join in his cause.
‘If anyone seriously believes the Court of Appeal has reformed itself since the dark days of the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4, they should study the unreported and amazing case of Tony Stock,’ wrote the campaigning journalist Paul Foot in Private Eye in 1996.
Tony Stock was the first to admit he was no saint. He had a tough upbringing in dockland Liverpool. He had a criminal record before the Leeds robbery. He was not a model father or husband. When he died he was estranged from his six children from two broken marriages.
Tony Stock wasn’t a bad man. His children talk warmly of a caring if occasionally absent Dad. Business associates attest to his honesty and reliability, and pals speak fondly of a sociable and kind man who was always good company.
But the young Tony was the kind of man — without power or influence, with a criminal record, and with no steady job — who could be treated with scant regard by the authorities. After all who was going to take his word against that of the police?
As I write this, another application back to CCRC is under way. Tony Stock might not be with us but his fight goes on.
In September 2011 I was a witness to an unusual reunion at Bristol Temple Meads Railway Station between the former solicitor-general Vera Baird QC, Glyn Maddocks and a 72-year-old pensioner called Tony Stock. The last time the three of them were together was 15 years ago at the Royal Courts of Justice for the ill-fated 1996 appeal. By Jon Robins, from the closing chapter of The First Miscarriage of Justice.
I was there for two reasons. I was going to interview Baird and Maddocks together with a third lawyer called Emily Bolton from the anti-death penalty charity Reprieve for the Guardian. We were at the university to discuss a brand new initiative called the Centre for Criminal Appeals, a lawyer-led project to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice cases.
I was also meeting Tony Stock, who had been driven to Bristol by his solicitor to discuss the book. Tony patiently sat in the corner of a large tutorial room at Bristol University as I interviewed the three lawyers about the Centre for Criminal Appeals.
Glyn Maddocks made the connection between the CCA and his client. ‘The case of Tony Stock is exceptional for many reasons but it’s also a textbook example why we need the CCA,’ Glyn told me. ‘The evidence supporting his conviction has been shot to pieces. There is literally nothing left of the prosecution case. Yet he’s still fighting. The system has failed. We need a new approach.’
The interview over, Tony and I went to a Starbucks opposite the university and grabbed a bite to eat. Ostensibly, we were there to discuss the book, how it might work, and what it might and might not achieve. Uppermost in my mind, was what kind of man was Tony Stock? Was he sympathetic? Could a man who had spent pretty much his entire adult life fighting to clear his name be anything other than bitter? Frankly, was Tony Stock the kind of person likely to bombard me with phone calls at anti-social hours with cranky conspiracy theories about being ‘fitted-up’?
Warts and all
There was no need to worry. Tony was easy company, perfectly affable and measured in his responses. He took me through a chronological account of his case in, for the most part, a dispassionate manner. There was a surge of emotion when it came to discussing Mather. There was genuine anger there.
The book had to be ‘warts and all’, I said — in other words, he would have to be straight about his criminal record. Not a problem, Tony replied. I wanted to talk about the emotional impact on him and his family — including, his first wife. He agreed.
I wanted to know if Tony had given up on his fight to clear his name following the latest disappointment at the Court of Appeal. ‘Absolutely not,’ Tony said. In fact, he told me that he was spending his pension on hiring a private investigator to re-interview witnesses.
I had known about the Tony Stock case for years. It was an alarming case but, frankly, there are any number of alarming cases. My decision to write the book came after a conversation with Ralph Barrington, the former head of Essex CID.
At the beginning of 2011, I was commissioning a collection of essays called Wrongly Accused: who is responsible for investigating miscarriages of justice? reflecting concernsabout the CCRC. It featured contributions from leading lights in the miscarriage world— David Jessel, Michael Mansfield QC and Campbell Malone. Ralph had stepped down from the CCRC after 13 years’ service in 2011 at the age of 67 years.
After Ralph wrote his essay, I asked him what he was planning to do in his retirement. Expecting the reply to be along the lines of ‘spending more time on the golf course’, I was taken aback when the former head of Essex CID told me he planed to write a book about Tony Stock. A man who had spent 40-years claiming to have been framed by the police. ‘Do you know the Stock case? It was the most outrageous miscarriage I saw in my time at CCRC,’ he said.
I did. I had written about the Stock case for the Times, Guardian and others. I suggested to him that I write the book. I rang up Glyn Maddocks, who had been representing Tony for over 20 years. A few weeks later I was in Bristol with Tony, and then shortly after that Ralph, Glyn and I met in London.
Unfortunately that initial momentum was to be short-lived.
The devastation wrought by someone being wrongly accused is not just felt by that individual. The ripples spread wide. When Tony was in Gartee, he left a wife, Brenda and their four children to cope as best they could — baby Anthony was only two weeks old, two-year old brother Stephen, two big sisters, nine-year old Charlene and six-year old Antoinette. Tony left behind a broken-hearted mother and devastated brothers and sisters. It was a family tragedy. The first person I wanted to talk to was Brenda who was his alibi on the day he was supposed to have been committing the robbery. I wanted to better understand what Tony’s conviction meant to her. I also wanted her to tell me about the birthday party that took place at the family home at the same time as the police claimed Tony was robbing Tesco.
Just another book?
At the end of 2011 I had a long and frank conversation with Brenda. I asked her if she could still recall the birthday party and, if so, could she give me some details? Yes, she could.
But Brenda’s view was that it was time for Tony to move on. Nothing could be gained from raking over the past, she said, other than causing yet more hurt.
‘Tony has fought this an awful long time and even though him and I have gone our separate ways I admire him for doing that. But as a father he could have done a lot more for our children. But I will tell you he is innocent. I will say that. I would love it to happen that he was proved innocent. But I can’t believe anything any more. There are still heads that should roll. They know who they are. You might write this book and it is just another book. They aren’t bothered.’
Frankly, this was not the conversation I was expecting. I told Brenda that I’d send her a letter explaining my reasons for the book and asking if she and her family would give the project their support. The family were meeting at Christmas, she told me, and they would consider my request. By the end of our conversation, Brenda agreed to think about it.
I was confident that I had won her over. I wrote the letter. I never did hear back from Brenda.
Tony, who had been suffering with a heart condition, died in his sleep on Monday 29, November 2012.
On December 18th 2012 the Labour MP Barry Sheerman tabled an Early Day Motion that ‘this House notes with deep regret and sadness the recent death of Tony Stock, the victim of one of the most outrageous miscarriages of justice of modern times’ and calling on supporters to’ continue to work to achieve posthumous justice for Tony and his family’.
In the immediate aftermath of Tony’s sudden and tragic death, I started the book. I would write it and Ralph, in a parallel endeavour, would take another look at the case of Tony Stock.
All the files were sent over from Glyn in South Wales to my office in Brighton: nine large boxes — plus another two enormous boxes from Tony’s flat—followed by a series posted packages comprising many, many thousands of pages.
Whilst we never heard from Brenda, it became clear that most of Tony’s family did support the book. At Tony’s funeral on December 7 2012, his two families met. The children from his first marriage, Steve and Antoinette, wrecked by a ten year prison sentence, got to know James and Katy from Tony’s marriage to Anne. ‘I didn’t really know my dad when I was growing up,’ Steve told me in 2013. ‘The first six years of my life he was doing a ten-year stretch for an armed robbery. Life was hard for us growing up. Even now just the other day somebody came up to me and said “You’re the bank robber’s son, I remember you.”’
‘We all knew he didn’t do it,’ Steve said. ‘But it’s still broke up the family. My mum was left to look after us all. But life didn’t move on for Dad. My dad spent more than four decades fighting to clear his name. He never stopped fighting. And why should he? He was innocent. It was his life’s mission to overturn the conviction — and we intend to make sure that our dad gets justice. I still hold his ashes and will release them when he finally is free.’
Twinnie (Antoinette) recalls seeing her dad when he was released ‘and again round about when I was 14 and again at 16’. Then there was a ten year gap. ‘We lost touch. I searched for him after having my first child.’
When I first spoke to Twinnie, I asked if she recalled the birthday party. She did and recounted what she could remember of that fateful day. I asked how she felt about the book, she thought it was a great idea. She said that she really wanted to know that he didn’t do it. ‘But you know your dad didn’t do it because you were there,’ I said.
Reflecting later on our exchange, Twinnie told me: ‘Even though I have memories of the day — singing happy birthday, celebrating and the fact that he was there at that time on that day — I was only five-years-old. It is a blurred memory.’ ‘People are cruel,’ she added. ‘Even though you tell them he didn’t do it, you’d hear the cynical remarks: “They all say that.” It begins to chip away at you. It’s years of people disbelieving you that wears you down. My father must of been a very strong character to continue his fight till he died.’
As I was finishing the book, the government engaged in another of its periodic attacks on the victims of miscarriages of justice. Ministers have proposed a new statutory definition for those cases where compensation should be paid out — there has to be a new fact that shows ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that the person was ‘innocent’.
It is shocking, but totally predictable, and betrays the poor lack of understanding of legal principle that seems to possess politicians the moment they take up a post in the Home Office. ‘Innocence as such is not a concept known to our criminal justice system,’ said Baroness Brenda Hale in the 2011 case of Adams.‘We distinguish between the guilty and the not guilty. A person is only guilty if the state can prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.’
Tony Stock was not motivated by money, but compensation is as close as people like him will get to an apology.
It is not to difficult to grasp that being accused of a crime you didn’t commit and serving time for that crime would have a deeply damaging impact on any individual. A briefing was prepared in 2013 by Dame Ruth Runciman, chair of the Miscarriages of Justice Support Service Advisory Group run by the Royal Courts of Justice. It looked at the emotional and psychological devastation brought to bear on the wrongly convicted.
‘Many of the wrongfully convicted were described by friends and families as changed in personality: they had become more withdrawn, mistrustful, estranged, and difficult to live with,’ Dame Ruth reported.
Some had post-traumatic stress disorder, suffered nightmares and anxiety attacks. ‘Longstanding and serious depression was common and some used alcohol or drugs to reduce feelings of distress. Often they found the enormity of their personal losses impossible to face and bear. In addition, some were consumed with anger and bitterness because they could not accept the legitimacy of what had happened; there had usually been no apology, and those they perceived to be at fault in the prosecution had not been brought to justice.’
It might have been better for Tony Stock, and for those around him, if he had moved on.
We know that Tony struggled with depression and even considered suicide. I was also told that Tony would drive to John Mather’s house and park his car outside it and think dark thoughts.
On at least one occasion Tony doorstepped Mather in the company of a journalist who (quite wrongly) thought the ex-policeman was the ‘Wearside Jack’ Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer.
Tony’s behaviour was apparently impeccable.
But that is not the ‘Tony’ as described by friends and family. ‘My dad never really got angry. I found that quite amazing,’ his son James told me in 2013. ‘He was someone who very rarely lost his temper. He had an amazing inner strength.’
Keep on fighting
Over 40-years, Tony Stock’s hopes would be built up repeatedly, only for them to be crushed in the most cruel way. It takes someone of extraordinary resolve to keep on fighting. What people say about Tony, time and time again, was that every time he would be knocked back, he would pick himself up, dust himself down and keep on fighting. Not only that, Tony continually pulled others into his life and persuaded them to join his campaign. They did that not just because they could see the obvious injustice, but because they believed in Tony.
His sister-in-law Carolyn Stock told me that when they cleared out his small flat after hs death, they discovered a cartoon pinned to his wall. Two mice fell into a bowl of cream, the first one gave up and drowned, the second one fought and swam so hard that it turned the cream into butter and walked out. Tony had written underneath the second mouse — ‘that’s me’.
Tony Stock might no longer be with us but the campaign to clear his name goes on. After the book is published there will be an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
We hope that the case goes back before the appeal judges for a fifth time. We recognise that outcome is a long shot.
But a final thought: what does it say about our criminal justice system, if such an obvious injustice is left to stand uncorrected?
This is an edited version of the closing chapter to The First Miscarriage of Justice: The ‘Amazing and Unreported’ Case of Tony Stock