Friday, February 25, 2011

Evidence 'hidden' in British case: Appeal over infamous robbery conviction begins

For more than 30 years George Davis has insisted he is innocent. Yesterday he listened in court as it was claimed that for all those years the authorities had suppressed evidence showing his 1975 conviction over an armed payroll robbery was unsafe.

At the start of an appeal which Davis hopes will clear him, the reliability of a policeman who identified him as part of the gang was questioned.

The case of Davis became part of criminal folklore after he was jailed in 1975 over a raid in April 1974 at the London Electricity Board in Ilford, Essex.

Davis, now 69, sat in the public gallery at the Court of Appeal to hear his QC argue that his Old Bailey convictions for robbery and wounding with intent to resist arrest should be overturned. The lawyer argued that evidence to show the convictions are unsafe 'has been in the hands of the authorities since at least 1977'.

The convictions have been referred to the court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), an independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

Davis, who lives in London, was originally sentenced in 1975 to 20 years. That same year the Court of Appeal rejected a conviction appeal bid, but reduced his sentence to 17 years.

His case attracted widespread attention in the 1970s, with Sham 69 writing a song about him, Roger Daltrey wearing a T-shirt proclaiming his innocence and his name being daubed across railway and road bridges.

Davis's sentence was remitted by Royal Prerogative and he was released from prison in 1976. But he was arrested again in September 1977 and later pleaded guilty to his involvement in an armed robbery at the Bank of Cyprus in London. He was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, which was reduced to 11 years on appeal.

Several complaints about the Metropolitan Police's investigation of the London Electricty Board robbery prompted an investigation by Detective Chief Superintendent Moulder, of Hertfordshire Police.

It was the interim reports from Mr Moulder's investigation that led the then-Home Secretary Roy Jenkins to exercise the Royal Prerogative to remit the remainder of Mr Davis' sentence and he was released from prison on May 11, 1976, the CCRC has said. The Home Secretary could have, but did not, refer the matter to the Court of Appeal so the safety of the conviction was never considered by the court.

When referring the case last year, the CCRC said: 'The reasons for the referral are that the Commission believes that non-disclosure at the time of Mr Davis's original trial of information which may have assisted the defence and / or undermined the prosecution's case at trial, as well as evidence subsequently obtained by the Moulder investigation and, more recently by the CCRC, raise a real possibility that the court may quash the conviction.'

Before the appeal began before Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Henriques and Mrs Justice Macur, Bernard Carnell, consultant at solicitors Shaw Graham Kersh, said in a statement issued on Davis's behalf that they hoped to overturn the historic case.

It said: 'It is our intention to demonstrate to the Court of Appeal that evidence which shows Mr Davis's convictions in 1975 to be unsafe has been in the hands of the authorities since at least 1977, when the final report of an independent police investigation into the case was completed by Det Chief Supt Moulder.'

He commented: 'If, as I believe, there has been a failure for over 30 years by those in authority to disclose essential evidence which could have demonstrated that Mr Davis was innocent, it is as serious an affront as there could be to the expectation of a defendant having a fair trial.'

Original report here

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