The Curious Case of Mr Hallam

It is good that Sam Hallam is finally free after seven years of unjust incarceration. However, we are seeing yet another case of miscarriage of justice. Yet again the system has shamefully let down two sets of victims –  the family of the murdered man and Hallam who spent time inside for a crime he did not commit.

The case, however, like that of Stefan Kiszko decades earlier highlights not just flaws in our criminal justice system, but systemic and malicious incompetence. So determined is the state to secure a conviction that the investigation is compromised. Hallam and Kiszko could easily have been cleared very early on in the investigations, but withheld evidence, whether through wilful malice or rank incompetence led to a jury being presented with incomplete and misleading evidence and subsequent conviction.

Trying to get an unjust conviction overturned is no mean feat. The state assumes infallibility from the outset. A jury has found the defendant guilty, so guilty he is, despite overwhelming evidence that the state does get it wrong and does so with remarkable and disturbing regularity –  during the nineties for example, we saw a series of mothers being convicted wrongly on the basis of flawed (manufactured) evidence presented by a so-called expert and it took years to get justice and the wrongly convicted freed. Hallam has lost seven years of his life. Seven years he will never get back. Just as well we didn’t hang him, I guess… And don’t even get me started on a parole system that demands an innocent man show remorse for his crimes before he is eligible for parole. So, because he is innocent and cannot, he remains incarcerated –  catch 22 indeed.

But, and this is the crucial point, will justice be done? Will those who withheld evidence from the defence and those who failed to properly investigate the evidence –  not least the alibi –  face consequences? At the very least these people should be facing charges for perverting the course of justice. And if convicted, should serve a minimum of seven years each. How likely is that?

What is, however, an absurd juxtaposition is that on the same day that Hallam was released from incarceration caused by police incompetence, the police themselves were barracking the home secretary, claiming that she is a disgrace. They may well be right. However, glass houses, stones, kettles and pots do spring to mind. I for one, do not respect the police force as I once did. They are a part of the state apparatus and that for me is the enemy to be viewed with suspicion at all times and never to be trusted. While people like Sam Hallam continue to be convicted as a consequence of police incompetence, malice and corruption, this will continue to be the case.

The state is not your friend.

13 comments for “The Curious Case of Mr Hallam

  1. Mudplugger
    May 17, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Yet another articulate example (of far too many) of why a return to capital punishment can never be considered.

  2. May 17, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I agree with you on the system failures (not least the absurdity of the ‘remorse’ that needs to be shown for parole) but I’m far from convinced that this was a case of the police and CPS ‘fitting up’ a wholly innocent young man not connected to gang violence in any way whatsoever.

    • May 17, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Why do you reach this conclusion? His alibi was not properly investigated – had it been so, then there was evidence that he was not at the scene of the crime. Then there’s the mobile phone and CCTV footage that likewise cleared him. That the prosecution is not going to challenge the appeal tells us much about its original case. So, yes, I am convinced that this is a classic miscarriage of justice. The evidence suggests very heavily that he wasn’t there.

      I have no idea whether he has been involved in gang violence on other occasions, but he wasn’t being tried for that – and it is therefore not relevant.

      • May 17, 2012 at 11:34 am

        Well, there’s the statement of one witness as noted at your blog. And it’d be strange indeed for the police, given the name of a random, innocent member of the public with no ‘rep’ in this area of crime (whether clean record or not) to go haring off down this blind alley.

        I know it doesn’t mean that we should judge people as ‘guilty until proven innocent’, but I don’t think this means that if my name were put forward for a gang crime, I could expect the same treatment from the police and CPS…

        • May 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm

          Well, there’s the statement of one witness as noted at your blog.

          Indeed. And she has been shown to be unreliable. So we can pretty much discount her testimony, not least given that it is contradicted by other witnesses, CCTV footage and the suspect’s own mobile phone footage. I think the word you are looking for here is probably “lied”…

          but I don’t think this means that if my name were put forward for a gang crime, I could expect the same treatment from the police and CPS…

          Good luck with that one. You are more trusting than I am. The list of innocents who have served gaol time is too long for me to have that kind of faith.

          The facts remain that the police pursued an innocent man despite overwhelming evidence that he was nowhere near the crime scene. There is also the fact that the prosecution withheld vital evidence from the defence. Outrageous abuse doesn’t even begin to cover it.

        • David. A. Evans
          May 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm

          I was wrongly identified by a witness after being arrested for a crime I didn’t commit!

          The plods were downright intimidating to me and seemed absolutely convinced of my guilt.

          I was 55 at the time with no prior convictions OR arrests.

          Not to worry, they’ve got me on the DB now, fortunately, not had a visit in a few years.

    • May 17, 2012 at 9:51 am

      I’m with Julia on this. The state wasn’t determined to convict him, they just did a crap job of handling the case. The crap police not doing their job properly and ignoring alibis (14 saying he wasn’t there against one saying he was) and not taking evidence from the aledged weapon.

      • May 17, 2012 at 10:04 am

        I’m not sure that I’m saying anything different. I dispute Julia’s underlying suggestion that Hallam wasn’t innocent – if not of this then some other offence – yet he was of previous good character and there is no evidence to suggest othewise.

        The police are always under pressure to get their man. and it is perhaps understandable that they will, when they have a suspect, do all they can to secure a conviction.

        What happened here was a disgrace and suggests incompetence at the very least – worse, it suggests malice and corruption. Certainly they have a case to answer for perverting the course of justice. There is no excuse for not properly investigating the facts of the case and there is none for not passing relevant information to the defence. Everyone involved in this prosecution should face charges and be gaoled for the same amount of time as Hallam. Until we take this kind of action, there will continue to be this kind of abuse – and abuse is precisely what it is. And it keeps happening, doesn’t it?

        • SteveW
          May 17, 2012 at 5:27 pm

          They’ve always done it and will continue to do so for as long as they’re allowed to get away with it.

          For example, Liddle Towers death, after a good kicking in the cells, was recorded as justifiable homicide in the original inquest – as I recall, later overturned and superceded by a verdict of death by misadventure (which seems to be something of a catch-all).

      • May 17, 2012 at 10:53 am

        Doing a crap job is not acceptable.

        Whether the crap job is deliberate or accidental is neither here nor there. Either way a crap job happens because no one in the public sector is ever held accountable for their actions.

        If this was deliberate then, as Longrider says, people should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. If accidental then they ought to be prosecuted for criminal negligence.

  3. May 17, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I’ve lived in such a country where the police are feared. The police have always been used against people – remember the miner’s strike? – but when they are being deliberately made more thuggish, as in that road block the other day, then it’s on the way to the USSR. There’s little doubt of this.

    Stitch-ups happen but the opposite also happens. Police have a hell of a job getting real crims convicted and it only leads to general demoralization.

    • SteveW
      May 17, 2012 at 11:09 pm

      “Stitch-ups happen but the opposite also happens. Police have a hell of a job getting real crims convicted and it only leads to general demoralization.”

      Interesting point James, although one can’t help but think that if they steered clear of the stitch ups, they’d likely have greater support from the general public.

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