Miscarriage of Justice Ruling 'Defies Common Sense'

The Court of Appeal today agreed with Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, that Andrew Adams did not suffer a ‘miscarriage of justice’ and so has no right to be compensated for spending 14 years in prison for a murder conviction that was quashed in January 2007.

Background

Andrew Adams, a former aircraft engineer, spent 14 years behind bars for a murder he has always denied committing.  The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) quashed his conviction in January 2007 after it was referred there by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. He was 23 when he was found guilty at Newcastle Crown Court in 1993 of the shooting of Jack Royal.

The March 1990 shooting of Mr Royal, after he answered the door to his home in Gateshead, was said to have been a revenge killing for the fatal stabbing of a man during a street fight in 1987 - Mr Royal had been acquitted of murder after arguing that he had acted in self-defence.

When allowing the criminal appeal of Andrew Adams, Lord Justice Gage, Mr Justice Silber and Mr Justice Treacy said that various ‘criticisms and failures’ relating to the handling of his defence had the cumulative effect of being ‘sufficient to render the verdict unsafe’. However, they added: ‘We are not to be taken as finding that if there had been no such failures the appellant would inevitably have been acquitted.’ This sentence was seized on by the Justice Secretary to say that Andrew Adams is not a victim of a ‘miscarriage of justice’ within the meaning of section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which entitles such victims to state compensation. 

Today’s ruling

Today, three Court of Appeal judges dismissed Mr Adams’s challenge to Jack Straw’s decision that he was not entitled to compensation for a miscarriage of justice. Giving the main ruling, Lord Justice Dyson, sitting in London with Lord Justices Waller and Lloyd

(a) did agree that the murder conviction of Andrew Adams was quashed because of ‘new or newly discovered facts’, namely three pieces of evidence that came from the unused material in the possession of the prosecution but which his original defence team failed to discover and deploy at his trial; but

(b) did not agree that it was beyond a reasonable doubt that Andrew Adams suffered a ‘miscarriage of justice’, because (a) the new or newly discovered facts do not show that he was innocent (para 43); and (b) the errors of the barristers in his 1993 trial did not cause something to go seriously wrong with the trial process (para 62)

Andrew Adams is asking the Court of Appeal to give him permission to appeal their ruling to the Supreme Court. He is bitterly disappointed at a ruling which seems to him to defy common sense.

This ruling ‘defies common sense’

The Court seems to have not only downplayed how badly wrong things went at the trial itself, but ignored the fact that the trial was deprived of vital evidence because the solicitors for Andrew Adams never examined evidence held by the CPS as ‘unused material’.

This decision seems even stranger when the Appeal Court does accept that it was this ‘new or newly discovered’ evidence that convinced the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal to quash his conviction.  For Andrew it seems absolutely clear that something did go seriously wrong with the trial process when his conviction was quashed precisely because his trial was deprived of vital evidence due the poor preparation and presentation of his defence.
Andrew Adams said:

‘I am shocked and angry that the judges have agreed with Jack Straw that things didn’t go ‘seriously wrong’ in my original trial and first appeal.
This ruling defies common sense, because if what happened to me is not a ‘miscarriage of justice’ then it means the Justice Secretary can refuse compensation to almost everyone whose conviction is overturned on a second appeal.

I do hope that I get the chance to convince the Supreme Court that I have in fact been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.’

Andrew Adams was represented by Tim Owen QC of Matrix Chambers, John Lyons of 18 Red Lion Court Chambers and Daniel Machover of Hickman and Rose.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The ruling quashing the conviction is available on request or via the website of Hickman and Rose EWCA Crim 1 (12 January 2007)

2. The full citation of the latest ruling is Andrew Adams v Secretary of State for Justice [2009] EWCA Civ 1291 (27 November 2009)

3. On the issue of ‘new or newly discovered fact’, please see para 17 of the judgment:

‘On the facts of the present case, the appellant had no personal knowledge of the undeployed evidence and for that reason I would resolve the “new or newly discovered fact” issue in his favour.’

And also, see para 18:  

‘The undeployed evidence was not known to the appellant or his legal representatives.  The fact that trial counsel should have discovered the undeployed evidence is immaterial.  For this additional reason, therefore, I would allow the appeal on this issue.’ 

4. Hickman & Rose is a niche city firm with a criminal defence team and civil department. The civil team is renowned for its work in seeking public and private law remedies in the UK and other jurisdictions on behalf of victims of crime and other victims of the abuse of power by state agents within the criminal justice system. Chambers Guide 2010 describes the civil department as “a fantastic team – one of the best”. The combined resources of the civil and criminal teams position the firm uniquely to fight for justice on behalf of their clients.