Mordere kan gå fri

Hans Rustad

En dom­stol av lor­der i Over­hu­set sier at dom­fel­lel­sen av en mann for dob­belt drap ikke er gyl­dig fordi den byg­ger på ano­nyme vit­ner. Lor­dene for­lan­ger at alle vit­ner møter til­talte ansikt til ansikt i ret­ten. Poli­tiet er opp­rørt. Noen av Stor­bri­tan­nias ver­ste kri­mi­nelle kan gå fri.

The law lords ruling came in the case of Iain Davis, who was jai­led for life in 2004 for mur­de­ring two men at a New Year’s Eve party in Hack­ney, east London.

Seven wit­nes­ses clai­med to be in fear of their lives if it became known that they had given evi­dence against Davis. Three wit­nes­ses iden­ti­fied him as the gunman.

Davis clai­med that he was the vic­tim of false accu­sa­tions from a jealous for­mer part­ner but the defence could not be put to the jury – so as to pro­tect the wit­nes­ses’ identities.

Lord Bing­ham of Corn­hill, the senior law lord, said that it was a “long estab­lis­hed prin­ciple of the Eng­lish com­mon law” that, sub­ject to some excep­tions, an accu­sed should be con­fronted by his accu­sers so that he was able to “cross-examine them and chal­lenge their evidence”.

The ruling stated: “No con­vic­tion should be based solely or to a deci­sive extent upon the state­ments and testi­mony of ano­ny­mous witnesses.”

Men poli­tiet sier at folk ikke tør vitne mot de far­ligste kri­mi­nelle. Ano­nyme vit­ner er eneste måten. Ved­ta­ket i Over­hu­set kan bety at Davis slip­per ut.

t deals a severe blow to plans by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secre­tary, to extend ano­ny­mity pro­tec­tion to wit­nes­ses giving evi­dence against gang mem­bers. It also under­mi­nes pro­po­sals set out by Louise Casey, the for­mer head of the Government’s anti-social beha­viour unit, to extend court ano­ny­mity to elderly and disab­led vic­tims of crime.

Assis­te­rende politi­sjef ved Metropolitan-poliitet, John Yates, ber regje­rin­gen gripe inn med nødtiltak.

Police now believe that up to 40 indi­vi­duals in Lon­don alone con­victed of mur­der or other serious cri­mes could appeal and walk free if the wit­nes­ses refuse to reveal their iden­tity in a retrial.

Dozens more pre­vious cases will be affected nation­wide and at least three tri­als cur­rently being heard in Eng­land are on the verge of col­lapse over the legal argument.

This is potenti­ally disastrous,” Mr Yates said. “A lot of good work is being undone, and this will play out so badly in terms of those we are try­ing to reachout to in com­mu­nities. It almost feels like we have bro­ken our word.

To see cle­arly guilty people walking free would be just awful.

Spec­ial measu­res are only used in the most extreme cases, which means these are our most dan­gerous cri­mi­nals, people who have been jai­led for up to 40 years. And they could be walking free.”

Police have iden­ti­fied an ini­tial list of 16 men who may appeal because of the ruling.

They have been con­victed of some of Britain’s most bru­tal mur­ders in recent years on the basis of evi­dence from ano­ny­mous witnesses.

They are ser­ving an average of more than 30 years in jail but could appeal and have their con­vic­tions quashed.

John Yates, assi­stant com­mis­sio­ner of the Metro­po­li­tan Police, fears kil­lers will go free

Even our jud­ges seem drawn to extremism

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