Commission refers the murder conviction of Alan Charlton to the Court of Appeal

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the murder conviction of Alan Charlton to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Charlton pleaded not guilty but was convicted, on 26th February 1991 at Cardiff Crown Court, of the murder of Karen Price[1]. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a tariff of 15 years but remains in prison.

Mr Charlton appealed against his conviction. His appeal was heard alongside that of his co-defendant, Idris Ali,  on 11th November 1994. The Court dismissed Mr Charlton’s appeal but quashed Mr Ali’s conviction and ordered a retrial[2].

Mr Charlton’s applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for a review of his case in August 2009.

Following a complex, wide-ranging and lengthy investigation, the Commission has decided to refer Mr Charlton’s murder conviction to the Court of Appeal because it considers that there is a real possibility that the Court will quash the conviction.

The Commission’s referral is based in part on new evidence that a number of officers from South Wales Police who were involved in the Lynette White murder inquiry (the Cardiff Three case), and the Philip Saunders murder inquiry[3] (the Cardiff Newsagent Three case), were also involved in Mr Charlton’s case and may have used investigative techniques similar to those used in the Lynette White and Philip Saunders cases and which contributed to the quashing of the convictions in those cases.

The Commission’s referral is also based on a range of other issues including:

  • Breaches by officers in the case of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) and of PACE Code of Practice C (regarding the detention, treatment and questioning of persons by police officers)
  • The credibility of a number of prosecution witnesses
  • Concerns about oppressive handling by the police of key witnesses which arguably mean that the trial amounted to an abuse of process

The Commission’s analysis of the case and its reasons for referring Mr Charlton’s conviction to the Court of Appeal are set out in detail in a 157-page document called a Statement of Reasons. This document has been supplied to the Court of Appeal and to Mr Charlton and his legal representatives.[4]

 

Since deciding to refer the case to the Court of Appeal, the Commission has brought these matters to the attention of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Chief Constable of South Wales Police and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Mr Charlton is represented by Mr Craig MacGregor of Cobden House Chambers,

19 Quay Street, Manchester, M3 3HN. Tel: 0161 833 6000.

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 232 0906, 07947 355231 or e-mail press@ccrc.prod.wp.dsd.io

Footnotes

[1] Karen Price was 15 years old and living at a residential children’s home in Cardiff at the time of her disappearance. She had last been seen on 2nd July 1981 when she had run away from the children’s home. Her murder was assumed to have taken place shortly after her disappearance. Her skeletal remains were uncovered by workmen digging at the rear of 29 Fitzhammon Embankment, Cardiff, on 7th December 1989. The basement flat at that address had been occupied by Mr Charlton at the time of Karen Price’s disappearance.

[2] At his retrial in 1994 Mr Ali pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was released from prison at the end of those proceedings.

[3]  Following a referral by the CCRC, the 1988 convictions of Michael O’Brien, Ellis Sherwood and Darren Hall (the Cardiff Newsagent Three) for the murder of Philip Saunders were quashed by the Court of Appeal in January 2000.  The 1990 convictions of Yusef Abdullahi, Stephen Miller and Tony Paris (the Cardiff Three) for the murder of Lynette White were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1992. Jeffrey Gafoor was jailed for the murder of Lynette White in 2003.

[4] Legal restrictions placed on the Commission by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 mean that the Commission cannot make its Statements of Reasons public. There are no such restrictions on applicants or their legal representative who can make the document public if they choose to.

Notes for editors

  1. The Criminal Cases Review Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
  1. There are currently eleven Commissioners who bring to the Commission considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.
  1. The Commission usually receives around 1,000 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Typically, around 4%, or one in 25, of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.
  1. The Commission considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal.  Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.
  1. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.