Andrew Adams free after 14 years

15 Sep 2016

The Court of Appeal today quashed the conviction of Andrew Adams who was freed after serving more than 14 years in jail for the murder of Jack Royal in Newcastle on 19th March 1990.

Ben Rose, solicitor for Adams, said:

“This is a great day, a sad day and a shameful day. It is a great day because, after being in prison for fourteen years for a crime he did not commit, Mr Adams’ conviction has finally been quashed. It is a shameful day because the material which has led the Court of Appeal to quash Mr Adams’ conviction was there for his original lawyers to examine – something they failed to do. Finally, it is a sad day because Mr Royal’s murderers are still at large”.

Andrew Adams said:

“I am overwhelmed with all that has happened. A few minutes ago I was a prisoner serving a life sentence for a crime I did not commit. I am now a free man”.


Andrew Adams was born on 26th January 1970 and grew up in the West end of Newcastle upon Tyne. Having left school he went to work in his father’s successful aircraft engineering workshop – Little Wings.

  • On the evening of 19 March 1990, Jack Royal died after he received a single shot gun wound to the face. Royal had previously been acquitted of the murder of David Thompson, on the basis of self-defence. David Thompson was the brother of Catherine Thompson, who was Adams’ girlfriend.
  • The prosecution’s case against Adams was that Catherine Thompson had persuaded him to murder Royal in revenge for the killing of her brother. It was alleged that the murder of Royal was carried out by Adams and his co-defendant and life long friend, John Hands. But Hands was acquitted of murder and Catherine Thompson acquitted of soliciting the murder of Royal.
  • The trial of the Adams, Hands and Catherine Thompson followed an unsuccessful prosecution of Walter Hepple for the murder of Royal. Hepple was acquitted by verdict of a jury on 26 June 1991. In April 1992, Kevin Thompson (no relation of David Thompson) gave information to the police and was subsequently the principal witness at the Adams trial.

Adams was arrested in May 1992 and tried and convicted in April 1993. He was represented by a local firm; John Foley & Co. Andrew’s first appeal was heard and dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 1997. Almost immediately afterwards, Andrew applied to the recently created Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). In 2000 he instructed Ben Rose, from Hickman & Rose, to assist with that application.

As a result of the painstaking work of his lawyers the CCRC finally referred Adams’ case back to the Court of Appeal in September 2005. The grounds included an allegation that his original trial lawyers had failed to properly prepare the case.

Adams second Appeal took place in December 2006. Today the Court of Appeal has ruled that his conviction was unsafe and ordered that it be quashed.

Evidence the jury never heard

Hickman & Rose Solicitors assigned a team of two lawyers and 5 assistants to work full-time on the appeal. More than 40,000 pages of evidence were considered in the lead-up to the appeal hearing. Yet the barristers who represented Adams in the 1993 trial had only 10 days in which to prepare. It was not nearly enough.

As a result of the failure to prepare properly for trial, the jury did not hear significant evidence about the main prosecution witness, Kevin Thompson. Importantly, the jury never learned that Thompson had two “off the record” conversations with Northumbria police officers, each conversation happening the day before Thompson made grave allegations against Adams. An earlier tape recorded interview with Thompson disappeared in mysterious circumstances. In Adams’ first Appeal, in 1997, the Court of Appeal described the way in which the police documented their contact with Thompson as “deplorable and inexcusable” and “to say the least, surprising”.

The jury also did not hear all the evidence from witnesses who suggested that Thompson was wrong about a ‘getaway route’, and also lying about Adams’ movements in the hour before the shooting.

Ben Rose said:

“Andrew’s case was prepared by Mary Foley, an unqualified and unsupervised clerk with John Foley & Co. The situation became worse when the barristers who were instructed were chosen because they had represented another man who had previously been charged and acquitted of the same crime. Those barristers had to withdraw late in the day and the Court has now confirmed it was ‘a clear error’ that John Foley & Co chose them and that the barristers ever accepted the instructions.

Before leaving to celebrate with family and friends Andrew Adams said:

“During the past fourteen years my mum has died, my friends have got married, settled down and had children, whilst I have been in prison. I will now return to Newcastle and begin to rebuild the life I once had. I am so grateful to all those who have stood by me. Without them I would not be here today”.

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