Criminal Cases Review Commission
Modern standards of fairness, and a change in expert opinion form basis of the Oliver Campbell referral to the Court of Appeal
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (“CCRC”) has referred a 1991 murder conviction to the Court of Appeal after obtaining new expert evidence about the defendant’s vulnerability.
On 22 July 1990, Baldev Hoondle was shot and killed during the course of a robbery at his off licence in East London. A witness recalled seeing two men, one of whom was wearing a distinctive “British Knights” baseball cap, fleeing the scene. Oliver Campbell, who had recently purchased such a cap, was arrested by the police and interviewed 14 times. Whilst in police custody, he made admissions inside and outside of police interview as to his involvement in Mr Hoondle’s murder.
The jury at Mr Campbell’s trial knew that he had learning disabilities with impaired memory and reasoning skills; however, an expert report concluded that he was not abnormally suggestible. During its review, the CCRC approached that same expert and invited him to re-consider his assessment of Mr Campbell. The expert concluded that he had not properly understood Mr Campbell’s vulnerabilities at the time of trial or appeal. A second expert instructed by the CCRC explained how a modern approach to assessing Mr Campbell would take a more holistic view that considered his background and experience. This expert agreed that there were reasons why Mr Campbell may have given unreliable evidence, which were not fully understood or explained to the jury at the time.
Helen Pitcher OBE and chair of the CCRC said:
“It is now clear that, at the time of Mr Campbell’s trial and appeal, the full extent of his vulnerabilities were not properly understood. This meant that the judge didn’t have the full picture when deciding whether his admissions should have been admitted as evidence. It also meant that the jury was unaware of important information about how reliable or otherwise those admissions actually were.
“We’ve decided that there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will now overturn his convictions in light of this new evidence and have referred the case for a fresh appeal.”
The CCRC’s referral also considers changes in the law and practice since Mr Campbell’s conviction, in particular concerning the treatment of vulnerable suspects and the admissibility of hearsay evidence which could have supported his defence case. The CCRC has decided that there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will conclude that Mr Campbell’s admissions are unreliable and that ultimately his convictions are unsafe.
The CCRC previously reviewed Mr Campbell’s case and made a final decision not to refer it to the Court of Appeal in 2005. The current application was received in 2020.
This press release was issued by the Communications Team, Criminal Cases Review Commission. They can be contacted by phone on: 0121 232 0900 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to Editors
- The CCRC is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
- There are currently 11 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.
- The CCRC usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.
- The CCRC considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal. Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
- More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk. The CCRC can be found on Twitter @ccrcupdate and Instagram the_ccrc
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