The MP of a man who spent 11 years in prison for a murder he claims to have had nothing to do has written to the miscarriage of justice watchdog calling on the group to expedite his claim. Oliver Campbell was sentenced to life despite his co-accused admitting to being involved, insisting that Campbell had nothing to do with it and naming the killer. His local MP, Sandy Martin this week called on the Criminal Cases Review Commission to ‘swiftly reconsider’ the case. ‘I believe referring a case as strong and obvious as Oliver’s ought to be an expected part of the commission’s core purpose,’ he wrote.
That evidence was never put before the jury which sentenced the then 20-year old Campbell for the murder of off-licence owner Baldeev Hoondle on the Lower Clapton Road, in east London, in 1990. In 2005, the miscarriages of justice watchdog, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), refused to refer Campbell’s case back to the Court of Appeal. The only path to clearing his name remains blocked.
After I wrote an article for Byline Times in July as part of the ‘Justice Trap’ series on Campbell’s case, the CCRC tweeted:
Again, @ccrcupdate would invite Mr Campbell and his reps to publish the @ccrcupdate decision doc giving detailed reasons why we could not refer the case for appeal. People could then evaluate it for themselves. Unfortunately the law prohibits @ccrcupdate from publishing the doc
— CCRC (@ccrcupdate) August 9, 2019
Last month, Oliver Campbell’s legal team took the highly unusual step of making the CCRC’s statement of reasons for rejecting the case public. ‘We’ve nothing to hide and Oliver has nothing to lose,’ his lawyer Glyn Maddocks told me. ‘I hope people take the time to read it and make up their own mind.”
Maddocks argues that the statement of reasons is ‘a highly flawed document that fails to get to grips with our arguments’. He added: ‘That was our view then, and remains so now. The CCRC’s document contains multiple errors of facts and law. This is precisely why we challenged the decision to reject the case.’
This week Campbell’s MP Sandy Martin met with the justice minister Wendy Morton to discuss the case. ‘Oliver Campbell’s case has been through the appeals process but it seems apparent to me that at every stage some of the most basic facts have been denied or ignored or refused any consideration,’ the Labour MP for Ipswich wrote. ‘The original conviction was extracted from him without the presence of a lawyer after protracted interrogation and despite the fact he had been diagnosed with learning difficulties and was unlikely to understand the questions, he confessed to utterly implausible things things as well as to the murder and that ought to discredit the confession.’
The letter goes on to relate how Campbell’s co-accused Eric Samuel explained that a baseball cap, a crucial piece of evidence, found near the murder scene had actually been snatched from Campbell’s head by the real killer and later dropped near the shop where the killing took place. This was all recounted 25 years ago in a BBC Rough Justice investigation called ‘If the Cap Fits’. However Samuels refused to sign a statement on the advice of his social worker and the CCRC took the view that such a statement would not satisfy the Court of Appeal.
Sandy Martin has now written to the CCRC arguing that the statement by Samuels ought to constitute sufficient evidence for the conviction to be quashed. The MP also identifies oppressive and deceptive interviewing tactics used by the police against an obviously highly vulnerable man which would have fallen foul of subsequent changes to the rules on police interrogation. According to the MP: ‘This includes the presentation to the accused of a fact which the police knew to be untrue that they found his fingerprints, and the deliberate misquoting back to the accused of statements he had just made in order to confuse him.’
There is an inquiry into the CCRC presently being conducted by the all-party parliamentary group on miscarriages of justice which, as Sandy Martin writes, ‘might persuade the government to alter the CCRC’s role and remit. I am sure that the commission would not want any case which stood a good chance of securing a quashing of a conviction to fail to be referred back to the Court of Appeal, least of all one which has been described by various people as one of the clearest examples of a miscarriage of justice they have ever seen and which prompted the trial judge to report to the Home Secretary that he found the result “grossly artificial”.’