Thursday, 4 August 2016

"Justice is never served by the conviction of the innocent" by Michelle Bates on the 31st Anniversary of the tragedies

"It was well after midnight on August 6th 1985 and I couldn’t sleep. Switching on the T.V., I absent-mindedly tuned into a news channel. We were living in Co. Cork, in Southern Ireland, and I was joyfully awaiting the birth of our first child who was already overdue, making me feel restless; that was why I was up and about at such an hour.

Becoming aware of a breaking-news story I began to listen in more closely. A siege was taking place at a farmhouse in England. The broadcaster relayed that five people were inside and there was great fear for their safety. As the story unfolded it became apparent that this was an older couple. A farmer and retired Magistrate, Nevill Bamber and his wife, June; their daughter, Sheila, and her six year old twin sons. Jeremy, their son, was outside with police who were trying to communicate with someone inside the house who had been seen pacing back and forth in front of an upstairs window and carrying a firearm. The reporter said that police were reluctant to get too close to the house for fear of causing that person to become more agitated, thereby, escalating the danger to the family. I watched for an hour or so but there was no resolution and, heavily pregnant, I became exhausted and had to go off to bed.

Awaking early I was anxious for news, hopefully of a rescue, so I put the News on immediately. The siege was over, police had stormed the house and five bodies had been found inside. I was heartbroken, a whole family! My heart went out to the young man who had waited all night long with the police for news of his family; this was not what he wanted to hear.

My own child was born a few days later and I became engrossed in motherhood. It was a real shock to hear, sometime later, that the son, Jeremy Bamber, had been arrested for the killings…how was that possible when he was outside during the siege and everyone knew that? I presumed the police knew something we did not; there must have been strong evidence to convict a man of killing his entire family…I pushed my unease aside and got on with motherhood and my own life.

Since then I have revisited the facts of this case in light of so many high-profile miscarriage of justice cases coming to light, including that of my own brother, Barry George, for the murder of Jill Dando. More recently we’ve heard of the lies and cover-ups in the Hillsborough deaths and The Chilcot report exposing the same type of cover ups in the Iraqi war scandal. In the Bamber case I can find no evidence to convince me of the guilt of this man. Nothing that can account for a man languishing in jail for more than thirty years. How did a jury convict a young man without proof?

Our justice system is predicated on the ‘presumption of innocence’ and also on ‘beyond reasonable doubt,’ but there is so much doubt surrounding this conviction that this case must be looked into again, urgently. The CCRC and the Court of Appeal seem to be reluctant to do this, and the police, for their part, have been withholding evidence from the defendant. It will cost thousands of pounds to, again, take them to court to force them to hand over the papers and forensic results that the court has already told them they must do. They have also effectively ‘locked down’ documents in the case under a PII* order; what is there to hide? Meanwhile, a man is fighting a conviction for multiple murders that there is no proof he committed. Surely this is not the justice system his father, a Magistrate was proud to be a part of?

On this, the thirty-first anniversary of these tragic deaths, I again call for the case against Jeremy to be reviewed.

Justice is never served by the conviction of the innocent."

*During the course of an investigation, the police may come into possession of sensitive material. This material may potentially be reasonably considered capable of undermining the case for the prosecution against the accused and/or of assisting the case for the accused. Nonetheless it may be withheld by the Crown under the “public interest immunity” (“PII”) principles.

Michelle Bates is the sister of Barry George who was wrongly convicted in 2001 of the killing of T.V. presenter, Jill Dando. His conviction was quashed at appeal in 2007 and in 2008 he was retried and found, unanimously, not guilty. Barry has never been awarded compensation for this wrongful conviction on the grounds that he is ‘not innocent enough', having failed to ‘prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubt.’ Michelle is backing a campaign to amend the Criminal Justice act, section 133, which affects many whose convictions have been overturned, or who have been found not guilty at retrial. Currently Michelle is writing a book about her family’s eight year fight for justice for Barry, to raise awareness of the struggles faced by all those who get caught up in miscarriage of justice.

Article in The Justice Gap by Michelle Bates

Jeremy Bamber

Jeremy Bamber
Innocent Jeremy Bamber