Miscarriage of justice

New appeal in Dando case to start

I watched a programme on TV last night about the conviction of Barry George for the murder of Jill Dando and I was astonished by just how weak the original case against him was. The programme also revealed that misgivings by the forensic service about the interpretation of firearms evidence given at his trial were not revealed at his first appeal in 2002. One expert on the programme claimed that had this not been about Jill Dando the case against Barry George wouldn't even have gone to trial, so weak was the evidence against him.

The speck of firearm residue found in his pocket was considered by the forensic expert who gave evidence at his original trial as 'neutral' and of no evidential value. Another expert called it 'worthless'. All the witnesses claimed that the man they saw had long hair - Barry George's barber (who wasn't called at his trial) asserts that George's hair was always short. A woman who saw, for a few seconds, a man acting strangely over four hours before the murder and who failed to pick out George in a line-up nevertheless picked him out from a series of photographs seventeen months later! It was revealed that a photograph which George had denied ever seeing, thus leading to him being accused of lying, had been taken years earlier and had only been printed after George's arrest when police found rolls of undeveloped film in his flat. And on it goes...

Given that George lost his first appeal and was refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords I suspect that the Court of Appeal this week won't find it in them to exonerate him completely and show up the investigation and trial for what they were but will, instead, order a retrial. A retrial which would certainly return a verdict of not guilty. Given the collapse of most of the evidence I think it would be scandalous for the CPS to proceed with another trial which they have no chance of winning but I suspect they will keep quiet and do nothing and the police will suggest that they are not seeking anyone else in relation to the killing leaving both the police and the CPS free to maintain the impression that Barry George got away with murder.

There are many similarities here with the case of Colin Stagg and the murder of Rachel Nickell in 1992. Fortunately for Stagg the trial judge threw the case out but for years Stagg was openly regarded by press (particularly The Daily Mail) and police as the killer until a fresh investigation discovered DNA evidence which completely exonerated him.