CCRC refers the murder conviction of Sam Hallam

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred Sam Hallam’s 2005 murder conviction to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Hallam was charged with the murder of Essayas Kassahun who died after being attacked by a group of youths on the corner of Old Street and Bath Street in Islington, London, on 11th October 2004. Mr Kassahun was left unconscious by the attack. He never regained consciousness and died in hospital two days later.

Sam Hallam was tried at the Old Bailey during September and October 2005 for murder and for conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm and violent disorder.

The prosecution case was based principally on the evidence of two witnesses who said they were present at the murder scene and said they saw Sam Hallam there and saw him take part in the fatal attack on Mr Kassahun. Mr Hallam maintained that he was elsewhere on the night of the killing. He pleaded not guilty but was convicted.

Because Mr Hallam was 17 years old at the time of the murder he was sentenced to imprisonment at Her Majesty’s pleasure. The judge set a minimum term of 12 years.

Mr Hallam appealed against his conviction but the appeal was dismissed in March 2007. He applied to the CCRC for a review of his case in February 2008.

The Commission has carried out an extensive investigation into the case pursuing many of its own lines of enquiry as well as investigating the issues raised by Mr Hallam and his supporters.

Following its investigations into the case, the Commission has decided to refer Sam Hallam’s convictions to the Court of Appeal because it considers that a range of issues, including new evidence capable of casting doubt on the reliability of identification evidence at trial, together raise the real possibility that the Court of Appeal would now quash the conviction.

A referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission means that the Court of Appeal will now hear a fresh appeal against Mr Hallam’s conviction and make a decision on whether to quash or uphold the conviction.Mr Hallam is supported by a campaign (see www.samhallam.com).

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 233 0906 or e-mail press@ccrc.gov.uk

NOTES TO EDITORS

As part of its investigation in this case the Commission used its statutory powers under section 19 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 to require the appointment of a senior investigating officer from Thames Valley Police to carry out extensive enquires under the Commission’s direction. Section 19 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 provides the power for the Criminal Cases Review Commission to require the appointment of an investigating officer (IO) to carry out inquiries to assist the Commission in the exercise of any of its functions. The decision to require the appointment of an IO must be made by a committee of three Commissioners. Details about Commission policy on section 19 appointments can be seen in a formal memorandum on the Commission’s website

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.

There are nine 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.

The Commission 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.

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”.

If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.