Monday, 12 December 2011

JENGbA PRESS RELEASE: Fresh Evidence? Not in this Court!

Sheffield men denied retrial despite having evidence that could clear them
10 December 2011
Nigel Junior Ramsey, Denzil Ramsey, Levan Menzies and Michael Chattoo were convicted on 7 August 2009 of the murder of Tarek Chaiboub, who was killed when a sawn off shotgun was discharged at him in broad daylight on Spital Hill, Sheffield, on 11 July 2008.
Although Nigel Ramsey was in prison at the time, he was said to have ordered the killing using a mobile phone that had been smuggled in to him. There was no evidence to prove that any of the four had pulled the trigger, so all were linked to the killing through use of the joint enterprise law.
The four were said to be members of an ‘S3 postcode’ gang. They were alleged to be also responsible for a previous assault on Chaiboub carried out on 6 July, to which another defendant, Javan Galloway, pleaded guilty.
The four charged with murder were put on trial first, and two other individuals, Daud Ahmed and Abdi Rahman Ali, who were alleged to have assisted Denzil Ramsey with disposing of the weapon, were charged with perverting the course of justice and tried separately after the four were convicted.
A shotgun found hidden nearby in Osgathorpe Park was claimed by the police to be the weapon used in the murder, who linked it to all the defendants in both trials. The police commissioned Dr Robinson, a firearms expert, to examine the gun, and on the basis of his report, the prosecution were able to claim that this was the murder weapon. The four charged with murder commissioned their own firearms expert, Mr Dyson, to examine the evidence, but his findings gave their lawyers no grounds to challenge the prosecution evidence concerning the gun.
The only other evidence was that of mobile phone calls made between the defendants (although there is no record of what was said in any of the calls).
At the second trial, the other defendants commissioned a different firearms expert, Geoffrey Arnold, who said that the experts in the first trial had not done their work properly. As a result, they had missed opportunities that could have proved whether the gun was or was not the weapon used to kill the victim.
In addition, Mr Arnold found evidence sufficient to enable him to conclude that it was unlikely that it was the murder weapon. It had almost certainly not been discharged since the barrel had been sawn off, before the murder. Following his evidence at the second trial, the jury found the defendants Daud Ahmed and Abdi Rahman Ali not guilty.
The mother of two of the defendants in the murder trial attended the second trial. Hearing that a key item of prosecution evidence had been discredited, she informed her sons’ lawyers. They commissioned a further report from the defence expert used in the second trial, and lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal. This appeal was heard on 8-9 December 2011 by judges Aiken, King and Stephens.
The appeal was entirely concerned with argument about whether the evidence of the defence expert from the second trial would count as fresh evidence. ‘Fresh evidence’, for the purposes of a criminal appeal, is evidence that was not available to the defence at the trial. Appeal court judges do not want their court to waste its time with hearing expert evidence that defence lawyers could have obtained, but failed to obtain at trials. They asked: was the evidence offered by the second expert genuinely fresh, or merely an opinion which differed from that of the first defence expert?
The judges did not call Mr Arnold so as to hear direct from him whether or not his evidence was fresh. They simply decided that the evidence was not ‘fresh’, and so the appeals were dismissed. They will give their reasons at a later date.
The families of Nigel and Denzil Ramsey, Levan Menzies and Michael Chattoo were outraged at what seems to be a gross injustice. At the later trial, exactly the same prosecution evidence that had been used to convict the four of murder had been discredited by a competent expert so that a jury could not find the defendants guilty. Surely they would be entitled to have this same evidence put before a new jury in a retrial of their case?
They had not had the chance at their own trial to use evidence that the prosecution expert had not followed established scientific procedures and as a result deprived them of the chance to prove that the gun shown to the jury could not have been the murder weapon.
Further, the jury that tried them had not had the chance to hear evidence showing the gun was unlikely to have been the murder weapon, nor did they have the guidance of a competent expert who could explain clearly why even the evidence produced by the prosecution showed that the gun was not the murder weapon.
For example: when a shotgun is fired, plastic wadding is discharged along with metal shot. Usually marks (striations) are made on the wadding which are characteristic of the particular gun that fires them. The wadding found on the victim showed no striations. But the wadding from a whole series of test firings by the prosecution expert showed consistent striations. This gun always left these particular marks. So it is highly unlikely that the wadding found on the victim was discharged by the gun exhibited at the murder trial.
Lord Justice Sir Richard John Pearson Aikens told us that the Court had decided not to admit this evidence on grounds of “expediency and justice”. “Expediency” is clear enough: their lordships do not want their valuable time taken up with appeals based on expert evidence. But “justice”? We are unable to see where anything we could recognise as justice comes into their considerations.
And if the four lads from Burngreave jailed with minimum terms of 20 – 35 years conclude that justice has been denied them and maybe put forever beyond their reach, we could not contradict them.