The investigative outlook that the CCRC must develop
Anyone who experiences the CCRC approach to investigating miscarriages of justice soon realises one important thing – the CCRC does not investigate with any great resolve or determination to find new evidence. Enquiry into an alleged miscarriage of justice can often be superficial and I would argue that the CCRC conducts shallow investigation. Alternatively, investigation can be comprehensive, detailed and thorough which is often necessary to get to the truth in a case where the prosecution have manipulated evidence. The CCRC has settled into a modus operandi whereby they conduct the bare minimum desktop enquiry in order to enable them to say that they have complied with the requirements of the ‘real possibility’ test when rejecting a submission by an applicant. However, experience shows that evidence of innocence is normally found buried deeper than the CCRC is prepared to look and often involves delving into minutiae that sometimes may appear irrelevant.
In the examples below the CCRC have had access to this evidence for circa 26 years without either finding it or perceiving the game-changing relevance to the applicants’ plea of innocence. It is why many people are calling for the CCRC to be reformed or abolished.
I shall give just two examples from the case of Jeremy Bamber, of which I am familiar. There are numerous more such examples of CCRC negligence in respect of his submissions.
1. The forgery of documentation.
When the public report an incident to the police it is recorded on a standard pre-printed form, in the Bamber case it was an Essex Police C1 form. There is only ever one original copy of that form, perhaps supplemented by further blank information sheets in a complex case. The White House Farm incident, described as a distress call, generated one top sheet of information. Yet, two pre-printed top sheets exist, one is an attempt to replicate the original form, a fact that Essex Police cannot deny. Why would Essex Police forge incident recording information unless to hide important facts about the case? It was done in order to cover up the existence of a telephone call made by Nevill Bamber, who was alleged to be dead at the time of the call; the simple fact is that Essex Police forged this documentation otherwise they could not have prosecuted Jeremy Bamber for murdering his father or any other member of his family. The record sheet reproduced below was completed by PC Michael West, but in order to prevent ESDA testing to reveal what was written on the sheet above it, a forgery was handed to City of London police investigators in 1990.
What we see in the two reproductions are minor discrepancies in text and spelling, so the person making the forgery, presumably PC Michael West, failed to make an exact copy of the original form. He attempted to, by reproducing words misspelt in the original, but in the course of doing so added new spelling errors! Denied access to the real C1 form, the City of London police would have been none the wiser to the fact they were being fobbed off and denied the chance to undertake ESDA testing on the original C1 form.
Note that in the original C1 form the phrase Duty Ps is dissected in half by a ruled line. The + symbol is entirely below the line. In the forgery, the phrase Duty Ps appears mainly above the ruled line and the horizontal line in the + symbol is directly on top of the ruled line. In the original C1 form a wavy line appears under the word ‘unit’; this is not in the forgery at all.
Note the correct spelling of the word ‘scene’ above compared to ‘scence’ below. Note the position of the full-stop after ‘Ps’ above. It is lower than in the forged version below. The second letter ‘c’ in the word despactched above is smaller than the same letter in the forged version. Note the difference in the number ‘5’ in the CA5 notation – they are markedly different.
This prima facie evidence of forgery and deception would never be discovered by the CCRC – they would never delve as far into documentation as to examine handwritten documents or make comparisons between them.
2. Handwritten evidence that demonstrates that Jeremy Bamber told the truth.
The final solution to the puzzle.
In 2019, a scrap of notepaper was discovered and the case against Jeremy Bamber collapsed. The CCRC would never have found this scrap of handwritten evidence because the CCRC would never explore the source file in enough detail or realise the significance of what is disclosed.
PC West telephoned Witham Police Station at 03:37
The information in the scrap of paper reproduced above destroys the entire police case against Jeremy Bamber because it shows that PC Myall (based at Witham) received a telephone call from PC West at 03:37, who was in the control room at Chelmsford Police Station. It confirms that PC West was telling the truth when he said at Jeremy’s trial that Jeremy telephoned him at 03:36.
A crucial question at Jeremy’s trial was, did he telephone the police at 03:26 or 03:36? Police logs indicate that someone phoned the police at 03:26; the police said that this was Jeremy. Evidence suggested that it was in fact Jeremy’s father, Nevill, due to the wording on the message form, i.e. “my daughter”, not “my sister” and the words “my guns”. If Nevill called the police at 03:26 then Jeremy could not have killed him (or Sheila Caffell who, logically, later killed her father Nevill). If Nevill called the police at 03:26 then everything else Jeremy said about events was likely correct. Therefore, it was essential for the police to suggest that it was Jeremy who called the police at 03:26 and the Jury were persuaded by the Judge that this was the case. We now know that this assertion was incorrect, and Jeremy has been imprisoned wrongly for 36 years.
In November 1986 after the trial of Jeremy Bamber there was an enquiry into the conduct of Essex Police following widespread ridicule in the Press regarding how Jeremy had allegedly fooled the police into accepting a murder/suicide scenario. The Chief Constable of the Essex constabulary, Mr. Robert Bunyard, directed the ‘investigation’ and Detective Chief Superintendent James Dickinson of Essex Police assisted by DI Storey conducted the enquiry. Chief Superintendent James Dickinson was an important figure in the Jeremy Bamber case because despite collecting ample evidence that indicated that Bamber’s conviction was wrong he elected to whitewash the police investigation. The Dickinson enquiry was the first of three police-led enquiries that uncovered evidence of Jeremy’s innocence but resulted in the evidence being ‘buried’. Dickinson’s enquiry unearthed a host of revelations that could have alerted him to the unsafe nature of Jeremy’s conviction for 5 murders and his hand-written notes reveal that he learned a great deal about the true facts of the case that he omitted from his eventual report.
The CCRC says that it has examined the final report produced by Dickinson which, of course, makes no mention of what PC Myall told him about PC West’s phone call at 03:37 because this would have meant that just a few weeks after Bamber was imprisoned for life he would have had to be released causing huge embarrassment to Essex Police. The CCRC presumably assumes that Dickinson would not mislead anyone or cover up vital evidence pointing to Bamber’s innocence. The CCRC is wrong. Are they simply gullible fools or do they really not want to uncover evidence of police malpractice?
Unless the CCRC develops the capacity to routinely discover artefacts such as those described above they will remain almost literally useless in assisting the innocent and wrongly imprisoned. Until such time as the CCRC has developed the capacity to investigate to the necessary level of detail it should routinely co-opt anyone supporting an applicant who has in-depth knowledge of a case to assist the investigation despite what the CCRC says about not collaborating with applicants. Jeremy Bamber could have been released five years ago had the CCRC asked for assistance in locating the evidence of his innocence revealed in this article.
But what happens when indisputable evidence of innocence is found? The CCRC will point to other “circumstantial” evidence that supposedly supports a guilty verdict, ignoring the solid factual evidence pointing to innocence. For example, when it is proven that a murder did not occur, and the victim died of natural causes the CCRC will reject an application because of unspecified circumstantial evidence that supposedly supports the prosecution case. In the case of Jeremy Bamber, whatever is unearthed supporting his claims of innocence the CCRC can fall back on the testimony of Julie Mugford, his then girlfriend, who concocted a highly imaginative series of lies in her testimony suggesting that he confessed to her that he murdered his family. Because the Judge invited the Jury to choose who they believed, Bamber or Mugford, and they chose to believe Mugford, this seemingly trumps any factual evidence that Bamber is innocent because Juries seemingly have an unchallengeable right to believe whatever they wish.
The CCRC can therefore refuse an application even when solid evidence is presented to them that a trial decision of ‘guilty’ was incorrect. But first of all, the evidence has to be found, and the CCRC is woefully inept at finding evidence. A significant improvement could be achieved if the CCRC would recognise their weaknesses and ask for help from people who understand the details of a case far better than the CCRC do – it would be a start on addressing this crucial issue.
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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