Cap on costs in criminal cases

From 31st October, a defendant who is acquitted will no longer be reimbursed his full legal costs.
New rules have just been published by the Ministry of Justice, capping the repayment of legal costs at £52.50 an hour in the magistrates court, £53 an hour in the Court of Appeal and varying rates in the Crown Court.

Hickman & Rose had responded to an earlier consultation on this change by arguing that the new rules were fundamentally unfair.   Many other respondents argued in similar terms that the reform is a disgrace to a country which has hitherto (at least in formal terms) paid due respect to the presumption of innocence.  These warnings have been ignored.

No matter how malicious, unfounded or improper a prosecution, the successful defendant who pays for his own defence will now be left facing finanical ruin in a complex case.

Details are to be found on the Ministry of Justice website:
http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/docs/defendant-costs-orders-rates.pdf

Another identification disaster

22 October 2009
It was almost too much to bear, sitting next to Terry Pinfold at the Court of Appeal this week when they turned down his final appeal against his one remaining 1978 robbery conviction.
Terry served this country in the Coldstream Guards for five years, seeing active service in Egypt, and leaving the army with the highest level of commendation.

By  1976 Terry was a stalwart figure in his local community – successful in business, happily married, with two lovely children.   His factory employed up to a dozen local women in Barking, and he was opening a gym and sports club.  He owned a share in another company manufacturing  life jackets.

But from 1976 onwards, robbery squad officers mounted a series of prosecutions against Terry, involving 18 counts of robbery, firearms and murder.  Terry fought two of these trials – involving robberies – without a lawyer and was acquitted by a jury.

But in 1978 Terry was convicted of  3 robberies, two of them bank robberies with firearms, on the basis of identification evidence and an alleged confession.

Let me say now – Terry is not a confessor.  As an old soldier he was well aware of the “name, rank and number” rule.

Terry miraculously succeeded in overturning the two bank robberies with firearms in 1981 when the Court of Appeal heard evidence that another man, George Bradshaw (aka Maxie Piggott)  – Terry’s doppelganger – had confessed to one of them.  This left him convicted – oddly – of the remaining robbery – stealing a getaway vehicle for one of the bank robberies he was acquitted of. The robber had worn a “false full-length Jewish beard”  Lord Justice Lane, not the kindest of judges, said the identification was particularly strong, but expressed strong doubts – verging on scorn – about the value of the oral confession.

But meanwhile, in 1980, Terry had been convicted of one murder, on the unsupported evidence of serial killer Bruce Childs whom Terry had briefly employed.  Childs implicated Terry almost as soon as George Bradshaw confessed to the charges Terry was in prison for.  Childs made his statement after meeting with Tony Lundy, the robbery squad officer who achieved notoriety in the early 1980s for his links with gangland figures.  In total Terry served 23 years in prison for the robberies and the murder.

Every single day of that 23 years was anguish as Terry proclaimed his innocence in every way possible.  It took three trips to the Court of Appeal  to get the murder conviction overturned.  His wife loyally supported him for the first 13 years until hope of the truth emerging  seemed to be extinguished.  From time to time the Home Secretary would increase his minimum term.

While Terry waited in prison for more than two decades for the truth to come out his children grew up, his wife divorced him, his health failed and his confidence in our society evaporated completely.

It was not until 2003 that an appeal against the murder conviction was overturned, thanks to Danny Simpson of Howells.  But Terry is now a tormented man.   He is deeply traumatised by his experience.

And he was  left with one robbery conviction.  Terry still rages against the illogicality of this single remaining case.  If another man (who strongly resembled Terry) had committed the bank robberies, where’s the logic in suggesting that Terry stole the getaway car?  This successful businessman, with so much to lose?  Who worked a 14 hour day in his own factory?

On further investigation it turned out, miraculously,  there were witnesses who remembered the circumstances of the 1976 ID parade where Terry was picked out.  They had been witnesses to one of the bank raids that Terry’s doppelganger had committed.  Not only had they helped the victim of the getaway car robbery make up a photofit, but the ID witnesses for both robberies (including the one of which Terry was subsequently cleared) went off to a restaurant together with a police officer for a meal and drinks before the ID parade!  The CCRC made no bones about it – back to the Court of Appeal we went, with Michael Mansfield QC representing Terry.

At last, we thought,  Terry’s name would finally be cleared.

But no.  On 20th October the Court of Appeal in 2009 made short work of the appeal. ID witnesses and police dining together?  No problem.  The confession – no reason to doubt its veracity despite the officer being tried for perverting the course of justice (acquitted) and dismissed on disciplinary charges.  The conviction was upheld.

The spectacle of today’s Court of Appeal delivering a judgment less respectful to elementary notions of fair process than Lord Justice Lane was shocking.  But Terry has seen it all before.

The fight will go on.  If anyone knows where to find George Bradshaw, alias Maxie Piggott, Terry’s lookalike, the 1970s robber, please let Jane Hickman know on 0207 702 5331.
Read more on this case by Simon Hattenstone in the Guardian:- http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/jul/14/ukcrime.prisonsandprobation