Appeal judges are to revisit a 1991 murder conviction described as one of the most shocking and obvious examples of a miscarriage of justice in recent times and a case that has featured prominently on the Justice Gap. In July 1990, an Asian shopkeeper was shot and killed in front of his son during a robbery of his off-licence on the Lower Clapton Road in Hackney, East London. Oliver Campbell has spent 32 years trying to clear his name after having served eleven years in prison for the murder which he always insisted had nothing to do with him.
The appeal is likely to shine further critical light on the miscarriage of justice watchdog which rejected it 18 years ago. Campbell’s legal team claims that the Criminal Cases Review Commission rejection was on the basis of ‘a serious mistake’ made in 2005.
His legal team – solicitor Glyn Maddocks KC and barrister Michael Birnbaum KC – highlight the conduct of the Met police officers as ‘incompetent and/ or dishonest and manipulative’. Campbell spoke to the Justice Gap podcast in 2021. He had – and still has – severe learning difficulties as a result of brain damaged suffered as a baby which meant that he was very vulnerable. The JG interview took place shortly after Campbell’s duty solicitor told BBC Newsnight about how he had been ‘misled’ by the police and described how the interviews had been ‘unfair and an abuse of police powers’
‘I’ve been used as a scapegoat. The police and the CPS know who committed the crime. They turned a blind eye. I feel very angry.’
Oliver Campbell to Jon Robins for the Justice Gap podcast in 2021.
In a joint press release, Maddocks and Birnbaum said: ‘We have been working on his case for nearly 25 years because we, his two Kings Counsel – and many others, including BBC journalists – believe that he is innocent. … We can’t give Oliver back 30 lost years. But hopefully we can persuade the Court at long last to recognise the injustice done to him.’
The lawyers point out that the jury never heard that, shortly after they were both charged, Oliver’s codefendant Eric Samuels exonerated him to police and identified another man as the gunman. ‘We now know that Eric repeated that exoneration to at least five different people over many years,’ they said. ‘Hairs found inside the cap pointed to Oliver’s innocence, because they were neither his nor Eric’s.’
In 2002, Kirsty Wark presented a BBC Rough Justice investigation into the case which highlighted the vulnerability of suspects with severe learning difficulties in police interviews. Following the Rough Justice investigation, a first application was made to the CCRC. As in the recent case of Andrew Malkinson, the CCRC first refused to refer the case to the Court of Appeal in 2005 before reconsidering last year (as reported on the Justice Gap). ‘We accept that in this case the CCRC investigated very thoroughly,’ Maddocks and Birnbaum commented. ‘But we believe they made a serious mistake in 2005 when they refused to send the case back to the Court of Appeal.’
When the CCRC first reviewed the case, the watchdog arranged for Samuels to be advised by another firm of solicitors. According to his legal team: ‘Ultimately those solicitors informed the CCRC that Eric would not speak to them. It appears that he was concerned about possible further prosecution based on what he might tell the Commission.’