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Karen Kneller and the continuing failure of management at the CCRC to tackle the issue of police interference.

Karen Kneller


Karen Kneller is Chief Executive of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). As such she is ultimately responsible for the operational decisions, such as the employment of former Police Officers, that are taken by the CCRC.


We learnt recently from Jeremy Bamber that his submissions to the CCRC have been scrutinized, vetted, and rejected by serving police officers on two separate occasions over the past twenty years. His said that his current submission is being overseen by a former police officer. Kneller is also responsible for the final approval or rejection of Jeremy Bamber’s application and should consider carefully that his submission has been described by her staff as “mind-blowing”. This presumably refers to the content being such as to render his conviction for five murders being unsafe. If Kneller is paying attention to this high-profile submission, she, therefore, knows that a referral to the Court of Appeal is likely.


Given that Bamber has been waiting for 20 years for a referral, she should consider all measures necessary to expedite the matter. She must at all costs prevent the Jeremy Bamber application from taking the same torturous route as that of Andrew Malkinson, when the CCRC had to be dragged kicking and screaming towards the correct decision to refer his case.


We know that the CCRC has always employed former police officers[1] although the CCRC claim to not even know how many of their current staff are ex-police, as if their employment was irrelevant. However, they are far from irrelevant. Former police officers could be influencing other staff in a number of ways prejudicial to the alleged innocent victims of wrongful conviction asking for their case to be reviewed. Enough is known about unconscious bias to suspect that due to bias in favour of the prosecution, or unwillingness to consider police corruption, a submission may be rejected. A caseworker could reveal details of the submission to the police force that is the subject of the complaint, permitting evidence to be destroyed or manipulated.


The ‘punishment’ for a caseworker who transgresses is simply a financial punishment and it appears that only upon “summary conviction” a fine is levied (and this has never happened).


There is seemingly no criminal offence or punishment for disclosing materials submitted for review by the CCRC, or even a suggestion that the guilty staff member would lose their job.


Given that the culture of the CCRC is to regard all applicants as guilty[2], the employment of ex-police officers can only reinforce such prejudices.


What kind of Chief Executive, in the knowledge of Jeremy Bamber’s almost 40-year protestation regarding his innocence regards it as appropriate that, once again, a former police officer is involved in making decisions about the merits of Bamber’s submission?


It almost defies belief. But are there other forces at work here? Is Keller actually at liberty to choose not to employ a former police officer as Jeremy Bamber’s current Case Review Manager? I ask this because the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have now moved to impose a 70-plus year Official Secrets Act Order, archiving case material at Kew, the Royal Archive. This prevents anyone from disclosing any further evidence to Jeremy Bamber or anyone else.


What possible evidence can exist in the Jeremy Bamber case that needs to be locked away for 70 years, long after Jeremy Bamber has died, the witnesses will have all died and there will be nobody alive involved in the case?


There are deeply suspicious actions that have taken place in relation to the Jeremy Bamber case and the use of government powers to suppress investigation, in particular Public Interest Immunity (PII)[3]. For example:


  • In 1989, and again during 1991, there were investigations made into the conduct of Essex Police during the Jeremy Bamber case. Much of the content of these enquiries have been unavailable to his legal team owing to statements and documents being protected under Public Interest Immunity (PII).

  • Essex Police are still withholding a large amount of photographs and case documents. During August 1985, the Essex coroner was provided with evidence sufficient for him to allow the release of the bodies for burial and cremation. The police had informed him that the investigation was ongoing but on the basis of four murders and a suicide. The documents and evidence to substantiate this were allegedly ‘lost’.

  • Many of the documents from the 1988 internal police enquiry (Dickinson Review) are under PII - this includes Julie Mugford's interviews and those of her mother Mary Mugford.

  • Many of the documents from the 1991 Police Complaints Authority (PCA) investigation carried out by the City of London Police are also under Public Interest Immunity.

  • Also under PII are the Original documents, (98%) from when the case was still a suicide and murder case, known as SC68885. This was from the 7th of August 1985 to the 8th of September 1985. The photographs that police still hold secret are from pathology and the crime scene.


So, returning to Kellner’s oversight of the Jeremy Bamber submission, there has to be a suspicion that she may not have a totally free hand in deciding whether a former police officer is appropriate to oversee his submission.


However, if she is at liberty to select any of the Case Review Managers then the choice of an ex-police officer is impossible to justify given that the Jeremy Bamber submission is pretty much all about police malfeasance.


Kellner must now realise that the Bamber submission is a test of the resolve of the CCRC to be independent and fearless in the face of government pressure.


It must be hoped that her actions match the brave words often voiced in the CCRC’s annual reports, suggesting that the CCRC is independent of police, courts and the government.


Now is the time to prove it with respect to Jeremy Bamber.


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.


Please let us know if you think that there is a mistake in this article, explaining what you think is wrong and why. We will correct any errors as soon as possible.


References


[3] Public-interest immunity (PII), previously known as Crown privilege, is a principle of English common law under which the English courts can grant a court order allowing one litigant to refrain from disclosing evidence to the other litigants where disclosure would be damaging to the public interest. It has never been explained why so many documents related to the Jeremy Bamber case would be damaging to public interest if released.



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