Monday, 6 March 2017

The Forensic Archive Ltd repeatedly wriggles on the disclosure hook

Above is the only image of the sound moderator taken pre-trial which has been disclosed. The police expect our forensic scientists to work with this poor quality photocopy, still refusing to disclose prints or negatives. This is what Essex Police call 'full disclosure'. The CCRC failed to obtain these photographs under s.17 of Criminal Appeals Act in 2011, and the Forensic Archive Ltd are avoiding disclosure

The dispute of non-disclosure has raised its head yet again in another area of my case. Not only are Essex Police deliberately and illegally not conforming to Court Orders to disclose all of the evidence in my case, but the Forensic Science Service are also refusing to hand over material they hold without any authority to do so.

The Forensic Science Service Laboratory at Huntingdon who handled exhibits and conducted experiments and tests in 1985/1986 on exhibits pertinent to my case was closed in 2012. All of the documentation including examination records, booking in logs, lab notes, reports, internal transfers and photographs were transferred to the ForensicArchive Ltd. (FAL) based at Birmingham. This Government-owned company was formed to retain and manage case files from all investigation work previously undertaken by the Forensic Science Service (FSS).

On 22nd July 2016, I contacted the archive by letter to establish that they did hold the complete case files and informed them that I was making a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to have full access and disclosure of all the material they held relative to the three case numbers which featured in my case during the Essex Police Investigation.

Alison Fendley the Executive Director of the FAL sent me a reply dated 4 August 2016 and confirmed that after a brief look they did hold pertinent files adding she did not know if all the case material generated by the Huntingdon Lab was held. In response to the Freedom of Information request, Ms Fendley continued: “It is not within the authority of the FSL to release such information to individuals, defence teams or appellants under the mandate to which we operate”. This statement contradicts the FSL website information, which states:

“For the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI Act), FAL is a Government Owned Company, and therefore meets the description of a public authority. As such, FAL is under an obligation to comply with the FOI Act’s legislative provisions concerning access to recorded information.”

Following this negative response I wrote again, requesting that they provide the information, which allowed them exemption from disclosure of case material. I also wrote to Mr John Lees, at the Information Commissioners Office and to my MP Mary Creagh to highlight this refusal to disclose. I received no response from my MP and the response from Mr Lees discussed a Data Protection Request for material. I had not made a Data Protection Request, I had made a Freedom of Information request for all documents and wrote back to advise him of his misinterpretation of the request.

Realising the error Mr Lees wrote to me again in December 2016 requesting copies of the two letters I had sent to when I made my requests. I do not hand copy every letter I write, but a typed manuscript copy of the two letters was available from my campaign team and these were immediately sent to Mr Lees so he could conduct his investigation into the non-disclosure of the material. Following the ICO involvement I received a garbled 2-page response from the FAL, which went into great detail about Data Protection Requests, which I had not made! In addition they stated they would not release all case material under a Freedom of Information Request, but specific items which they would then make a decision whether they would disclose or not. They further stated:

“The FAL is only obliged to consider FOI requests which do not exceed the appropriate limit. The appropriate limit for the FAL is set at £450, and represents the estimated cost of one person spending 2 ½ days working on determining whether the FAL holds the information, locating the information or a document containing it.”
The archive also stated:
“It is therefore important that you explain as precisely as you can, the information to which you are seeking access in order for us to identify and locate the correct material.”

I do not want cherry picked extracts from documents. I need to have the complete case files they hold and I have advised them of this in the last letter I sent to them in February 2017.  The archive have also tried to fob me off by stating that:

“requests for such information would need to be directed to the original investigating police force or the CPS. The pertinent force can then instruct the archive to release the appropriate information to you/your defence team.”

I sought legal advice on this and have been informed that I am not required to obtain permission for my case files from either the CPS or Essex police as no legal restrictions are in place regarding my case documents.

In response to the comments made by the archive regarding the “precise material” I want that is easy. I want the full set of case files they hold regarding the three case numbers relevant to the events at White House Farm which they have no right to withhold from me. The fight continues.


Friday, 13 January 2017

Jeremy's 56th Birthday, 13th January

When I think about all the birthdays I have spent in prison, I remember receiving some of the best gifts anyone can give.  The prison has always had very strict policies about what is allowed in and in recent years restrictions have grown even tighter. What sometimes amazes me is how people work around these difficulties to share the most amazing things with me. One lady many years ago bought me a star for my birthday, others send wonderful drawings and paintings and many send photos from holidays or of their gardens in bloom. I love sharing all of these things with my friends and supporters, the people who take those moments to share a part of themselves with me.

Personal memories are the best kinds of gifts shared, many people write with their happy recollections of events, it might be a marriage or a birth or the day they passed their driving test or got their degree. Others allow me glimpses into their every day life chatting as you would over coffee and expressing their woes, or just sharing the events of the day, moans about the latest parking fine they just received or details of their new shoes. Some debate over moving house or worry about relocating from the city to the country and sometimes I can allay fears over living in the rural but quiet and picturesque villages or homesteads.

I receive often very emotional letters from people who have lost family members in tragic circumstances or they have a sister, mother or child suffering from a serious mental illness. I share in their concerns; offer words of comfort and strength and most of all hope. Some friends write letters from all over the world while they travel or from where they live. Many are ex-pats and others of many different nationalities and it touches me that they are so far away and yet have heard about my wrongful imprisonment, which has moved them to write kind, supportive words and send a birthday greeting.

Strangers confide their loneliness, a feeling that is often all too real in prison, and I identify with the way they reach out to me baring so many emotions. People talk about pain, illness and suffering and in sharing together we find a salve. And soon strangers become friends; they share the laughter in their lives, the comedy in their relationships.

Friends pen their hopes and dreams for the future and talk about what we will do together once I’m on the outside. I’m looking forward to sharing so many of the things you write about in person. All your conversations in cards, letters and emails are welcome. So the next time you write a simple card to me, or offer words of comfort and strength, remember how much I appreciate these gifts even though they’re simple words, they’re so much more than that to me.


Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas memories with Jeremy Bamber

I have been thinking back to Christmas and the happy times we had at White House Farm in the festive period. Trimming the tree, mum in the kitchen baking and Sheila and I getting up to mischief pinching the chocolates from under the tree.  I never would have imagined as a child and young man that the greatest gift I would ever wish for in my life would be my freedom.

I can’t recall that I was ever in a nativity play dressed as a little shepherd or a wise man but I suppose that I must have been in at least one when I was at my little school, Maldon Court. I do remember though some of the brilliant gifts mum and dad selected for me. I especially loved Lego bricks and would build so many fantastical structures, it was so much fun. Sheila and I once got a table tennis table, bats and ping pong balls, now you would have thought this was a great present but as none of the family were able to play it with any success it was soon abandoned.

One amazing Christmas gift was a car, which could be programmed to follow a course. It was called an Amaze-A-Matic car described as being a “car with a brain” which pre-dated swanky remote control cars. The car came supplied with narrow, long rectangular plastic sheets which had small areas and parts cut outs of them. These would be inserted into the rear of the car and it would drive on a pre-determined course set out by the inserted sheet. You even got some spare cardboard inserts and a set of instructions which explained how you could map your own course. It really was so much fun but the batteries, the great big ‘D’ size ones, never seemed to last very long and we were always hunting round for new ones so the excitement soon faded. 

The best Christmas present I ever got though was a fabulous Scalextric set when I was about 13 which dad helped me set up in the dining room. It was a big set and had crossovers of the track, bridges, banking’s and even a lap counter so you could’t cheat. The set had 2 cars, a white one and a blue one I think they were, and looked like proper racing cars.

We would choose which famous racing driver we would be and had hours of fun zooming the cars round the track to become the motor racing champion. The cars went so fast and often would fly off the track and crash when you approached a corner too fast. For some reason everyone who ever raced my Scalextric with me always wanted to be on the outer track which was really handy as I had made a significant discovery which would prevent my car cascading from the track. After a little experimentation I discovered that if I sprayed a little of mum’s hairspray on to the track it caused it to be slightly sticky which would help hold my car in place and stop it flying off at the corners but I kept this discovery very secret at the time.

I have so many happy memories of Christmas spent with the people I loved and who loved me and I am grateful that over all the years of my wrongful imprisonment I can recall such happy times. As I have already said I would never have imagined when I was growing up that my freedom would be at the top of my wish list. 

I know that my campaign team are working hard in relation to forensic issues which will see me released from jail and my conviction quashed. I know that the costs involved are huge and without the kindness and generosity of you the public these essential reports cannot be commissioned. With your help I will achieve freedom and next year be able to surround myself with friends as a free man and make new memories.

Happy Christmas

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Friday, 28 October 2016

On The 30th Anniversary of Jeremy's Conviction at Chelmsford Crown Court

On the anniversary of my wrongful conviction the memories of my time on remand stay in my mind. Something which I have been thinking about a lot recently is the fact that while I was held on remand I was able to read through much of the very limited 'disclosed' documentation on my case. If you’re charged with a crime you’ll need to read the charge sheet and indictment, your own statement or transcripts of interviews for signing, all statements against you and forensic reports both for and against your innocence. This material might be quite extensive and require many hours of reading. Forensic and legal documents often contain technical language, which can be difficult to follow without specialist knowledge or a dictionary. I was fortunate enough to be able to do this but for many people charged with criminal offences it’s not an option because they cannot read and write.

In today’s society there’s always help available for people with disabilities such as partial vision or hearing difficulties and similarly if you can’t read or write you should be able to ask for someone to read it to you. The problem is that the vast majority of people charged with crimes who are not literate will not tell anyone about it. This means that the situation arises where many people have no idea of the detailed charges against them and this places greater difficulty on formulating a defence strategy. The bigger issue of course is that some people go through police interviews facing often very serious charges, and end up tried and convicted without really knowing the many factors of how this came about. Imagine not knowing the reasons why you were convicted, maybe wrongly, of serious crimes and imprisoned for even the shortest period or as long as whole life sentence.

This can also have impact on the victims of crime because admission of guilt by the perpetrator often helps victims to understand what happened to their loved one. Many of the accused won't understand the nature of the evidence against them and will not make confessions, where as if they had been able to read they might have done. Confessions also help the prisoner to rehabilitate and work towards better prison conditions and long-term objectives of building a new life on release.

During my time in Full Sutton prison I took a course, which enabled me to be capable of teaching people to read and write. It was called a ‘Peer Support Qualification’, and once achieved allowed me to be a classroom assistant in jail. My role was to help those guys who most others had given up hope on. One of those I helped was a guy with Tourette’s syndrome. He had a lot of involuntary physical ticks and verbal outbursts. He had clearly struggled with every aspect of his life until this point plus his personal hygiene was not the best but I saw through that and we got on okay. I managed to get him to learn the basics and above all to find some confidence in himself, which he had been sadly lacking before. Learning to read and write to a reasonable standard can often only take a few months and makes all the difference to prisoners who need to use cost effective methods to keep in touch with family and friends and read their legal mail.

Why is it that a justice system completely reliant upon written documents to create the case against someone, can proceed with a prosecution even though the defendant cannot read a word of any of the witness statements put before them? It is only in recent times that the government has realised quite a substantial amount of prisoners struggle with being able to read and write. In the last ten years or so every inmate gets tested to see if they can read and write, prior to that it was possible to simply conceal that fact from the prison authorities and everyone else around them. Guys simply had a range of good excuses at the ready for not being able to read. A classic was and is: “I haven’t got my glasses with me”, or: “My glasses are broken.” There is no come back on that.

Some prisoners have learnt where to put numbers or ticks on the forms they have to fill in for their canteen orders or meal choices, so even friends don’t notice. But since the system realised that reading and writing ability was a problem for prisoners, proper testing has been done where there are no excuses for why they can’t do the test. Accordingly the authorities have discovered that between 40% and 60% of prisoners cannot read or write to entry level one, the expected level for children under the age of 11. That is simply shocking and it’s not just that schooling has failed these men, or that prison education might have failed them, it’s that they have been prosecuted and jailed, probably many times and yet they’ve not been able to read the prosecution’s case against them and they could well be imprisoned in the first place because they were unable to gain employment owing to the fact that they can't read and write. 

With the huge cuts in legal aid, and prisoners not admitting to their solicitor that they can’t write or read the witness statements, people simply wait until trial and listen to what people say about them in Court and react to that but by then it’s a bit late. Moreover, I’m told that those who serve on a jury are not required to prove that they can read or write well enough to be able to understand legal documents and witness statements either.

My personal experience of those who struggle to read and write is that you’d never know from how they looked or how they spoke or how they conducted themselves. Their conversation is varied and interesting and there really aren’t any outward signs indicating they can’t read and write unless they tell you. But to think that probably 50% of those people who are prosecuted for the most serious crimes cannot read or write to entry level one standard is quite simply scandalous. How can they have had a fair trial? Maybe they received some help but not enough.

Being able to read and write should be one of the basic human rights, every citizen should have. Prisoners should never be prosecuted until they are literate – hold them on remand and teach them how to read and write, and hold the prosecution until they can. It’s simple, some will simply delay but the prison system has ways to encourage compliance and then the country has a chance of another 50% of prosecutions being fair. Alternatives could be providing audio transcripts of all material but this doesn’t solve the long-term problem of illiterate prisoners hoping for rehabilitation and release.


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

On the 31st Anniversary of Jeremy's Wrongful Imprisonment

With the thirty first anniversary of my wrongful imprisonment just around the corner, I have been thinking a bit about the Jury verdict and what that meant. I was not convicted on a unanimous decision but by a 10:2 majority verdict, which is very important for a number reasons and I would like to discuss two of these.

The first issue is that during my Trial, the Court usher and others had noticed that one of the Jurors was seen to be asleep on several occasions whilst witness evidence was being given. I clearly recall that not only were his eyes closed but his head was tilted back, his mouth was open and he was snoring quite audibly. The Juror next to him kept nudging him to wake him up, though effective for a minute or two it wasn’t long before he started snoring again. 

On Friday 17th October prior to the commencement of proceedings, which coincidentally was the second day of my evidence, the usher brought this matter to the attention of Mr Arlidge the Prosecution QC who in turn informed the Judge. The fact that this issue had been officially reported should have led the Judge to dismiss this sleeping Juror member from continuing to serve. Geoffrey Rivlin, my Defence QC asked me if I wanted the Juror to be kicked out, but Rivlin’s advice to me was that the Juror should stay. I didn’t know the procedure nor the implications of this decision and so I did what I was advised to do. In hindsight that was a bad mistake because the last thirty years could have been so very different and I will explain why.

As I have stated the Jury found me guilty on a 10:2 majority verdict. The facts are that unfortunately we simply don’t know whether the sleeping Juror was one of the ten who found me guilty or was one of the two who concluded that I was not guilty.  The chances of it being a Juror who found in favour of a guilty verdict equates at 83.4%, there was a 50/50 possibility of the sleeping Juror being one of the two who voted not guilty but as a percentage of the twelve Jurors it works out at just an 8.3% chance. Looking at these figures it would be reasonable to conclude that the sleeping Juror voted guilty, had he been dismissed during the Trial then a 9:2 verdict would have been returned and ultimately this would have resulted in an acquittal[1].

In the days when hanging was in place, no man or woman was hanged if the Jury had reached a 10:2 majority verdict, the Home Secretary of the day would commute the death penalty to a prison sentence.  In 1994 I was informed that in 1988 Douglas Hurd the Home Secretary had changed the sentence, which was set by the Judge at my Trial of twenty-five years to a whole life tariff. There are currently around fifty prisoners serving a whole life tariff, only one it seems, me, has had this sentence imposed even though I was convicted on a 10:2 majority and not a unanimous verdict. As a result this whole life tariff is in effect a living death penalty yet history shows that I would not have been sentenced to death before the death penalty was abolished.


The second issue is that whilst considering their verdict the Jury asked a number of questions which were directed to the Trial Judge. One was on certain specific aspects of the forensic issues which had been given in evidence whilst a further question concerned the issue of who would inherit my parent’s estate, with the Jury specificallyasking if the beneficiaries could be any of the prosecution witnesses. They were told that certainly none of the prosecution witnesses would inherit any of the estate belonging to my mum and dad. The conclusion reached at trial being that no one had a clue who might inherit the estate.

On 3rd July 1986, some months prior to my Trial the Will of my grandmother, Mabel Speakman was given Probate. Her estate was valued at £70,963. However, gran had inherited all of mum and dad’s estate prior to her death. Upon her death her estate, including that of my parents, was inherited by her daughter, mum’s sister, Pamela Boutflour.

The Jury weren’t told that gran had inherited my parent’s estate, or that this estate was settled prior to Trial with Auntie Pam being the sole beneficiary. Had they been informed the Jury might have had a very different view of certain prosecution witnesses and their boasts to the Jury of huge wealth, when until July 1986 Pamela and Robert had wealth amounting to just a few thousand pounds.

It seems reasonable to conclude that Essex Police might have known of this issue and possibly proceeded to investigate matters, and others involving allegations of fraud committed by my relatives. For example those later reported by the farm secretary Barbara Wilson, but police conducted the investigation in a way that ensured findings simply went nowhere.  They stalled until after my first Appeal 1988 and after a Court battle between other family members fighting for their share of the family estate. And so the fraud case dragged on over eight years and then was dropped with no action being taken.

Had the Jury known about how gran’s Will was changed to exclude me, or that mum and dad’s estate had already been inherited prior to Trial by some of the main Prosecution witnesses then their question to the Judge asking who the beneficiaries were would not have been asked. Had the CPS known about this it would have been unlikely that I would have gone to Trial, obviously certain witnesses and their evidence would have been viewed as financially motivated. Sadly it seems that the Court/the CPS and the Defence were all kept in the dark about the money issue and misled about the actual forensics in my case.

Looking back

Now in 2016 after thirty one years in jail and the numerous changing of the goal posts, I still cannot obtain disclosure of key documents in this case including DCI Kenneally’s 6th September 1985 report which stated as a conclusion that: “The evidence indicates that Sheila was responsible”, a report written one month after the tragedies.

On 8th September 1985 I was taken into custody, on 13th September 1985 the D.P.P concluded that there was insufficient evidence available to charge me with the murder of my family – I was released from custody. Between 13th and 23rd September 1985 new evidence was put before the D.P.P. and on the 26th September 1985 it was decided that I could be charged with five counts of murder.

On 29th September 1985 I was re-arrested and charged with murder x 5 and I have been in custody ever since. What would the Jury think now after so much evidence has been unearthed considering the troubling questions they put to the Trial Judge?

In any event, how can it be right to give a man a whole life tariff to a person convicted on a 10:2 majority verdict with a Jury member having fallen asleep during proceedings and given a whole life tariff when the Trial Judge stated my sentence was set at 25 years.

So on this thirtieth year of my wrongful conviction it is extremely saddening to realise that had aspects of the Trial been handled correctly and the truth told it would have seen such a very different outcome for me. The fact that the Jury were misled on key points of evidence, and only eleven of the twelve jurors were actually paying attention to the evidence and not falling asleep is so hugely important. Had the verdict been 9:2 which seems probable I would have left the Court on the 28th October 1986 quite rightly as a free man.


[1] : “Subject to subsections (3) and (4) below, the verdict of a jury in proceedings in the Crown Court or the High Court need not be unanimous if—
(a)in a case where there are not less than eleven jurors, ten of them agree on the verdict; and
(b)in a case where there are ten jurors, nine of them agree on the verdict”.

Jeremy Bamber

Jeremy Bamber
Innocent Jeremy Bamber