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CCRC enters a state of suspended animation following the Malkinson furore?

Convicted murderer Robin Garbutt recently (27 July) wrote an open letter to the CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher, pointing out various aspects of evidence given against him that were no longer sustainable. Garbutt argues that the case against him is now practically non-existent and should be referred to the Court of Appeal. Over a month later he has received no response from Pitcher, just a terse note from a Caseworker acknowledging his letter.

We are all now aware that Pitcher has gone AWOL from her CCRC duties to be in the Caribbean and thus cannot be bothered to respond to people like Robin, but where has the rest of the CCRC hierarchy disappeared to?

You may not know that the CCRC has a Chief Executive, Karen Kneller, who has been invisible and mute during the furore caused by the Malkinson scandal. One might expect that given the appalling circumstances of the Malkinson fiasco, Kneller would be alert to the possibility that there are other similar ‘innocent’ cases bubbling away inside the CCRC, such as the cases of Clive Freeman, Jeremy Bamber and Robin Garbutt . You might expect that Kneller would want to avoid similar embarrassment? It seems not. Garbutt’s letter has been swatted away like you might flick a wasp away from your lunch, without a trace of concern.

The CCRC has an ingrained attitude that all applicants are guilty and not worthy of effort. Technically, they are correct on the first point; all applicants have been found guilty. But this overlooks the point that a proportion are found to be factually innocent by the Court of Appeal and almost certainly more are innocent but just can’t prove it. So it is fundamentally wrong that the CCRC has such a jaundiced view of applicants such as Robin Garbutt.

Why does the CCRC think that he repeatedly pleads with them to refer his case? He is increasingly looking like a man who has no incriminating evidence against him as successive aspects of the prosecution case are found to be wrong in fact or theory.

The evidence left against Robin Garbutt is now largely based on supposition, i.e. judges saying that they can’t imagine who else might have murdered Diana Garbutt so therefore Robin is the only plausible candidate as the killer. But this fails to recognize that he was only convicted on a 10/2 majority verdict. Even when the prosecution case was intact, it didn’t convince two of the jurors. Remove four or five strands of evidence and there is every chance that a jury would find him not guilty if his case was heard again.

So why doesn’t the CCRC address the perception that it is too scared to confront the Court of Appeal, too timid and deferential, and refer the case? Robin Garbutt is not asking the CCRC to find him not guilty and set him free. He is just requesting that he has a chance to ask the Court of Appeal to consider all the fresh evidence that has been identified since he was convicted that discredits the case upon which the conviction was obtained. It seems that neither Pitcher nor Kneller is listening, or even cognizant of what is going on.

By Bill Robertson

Bill Robertson has researched alleged miscarriages of justice for around 20 years and advised on several cases, including the most recent application to the CCRC by Jeremy Bamber.

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