Commission refers the murder conviction of Omar Benguit to the Court of Appeal

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the murder conviction of Omar Benguit to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Benguit was convicted in January 2005 at Winchester Crown Court for the murder of Jong-Ok Shin. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mr Benguit appealed against his conviction but his appeal was dismissed in July 2005.  

He applied to the Commission for a review of his conviction in May 2010.

Having conducted an extensive and detailed review of the case, the Commission has decided to refer the Mr Benguit's conviction to the Court of Appeal. The referral is based on new evidence which potentially impacts on the reliability of a prosecution witness who gave evidence at trial, and on new evidence in relation to another individual which, had it been known at the time of trial, would have enabled Mr Benguit's defence to suggest a possible alternative suspect for the offence.  

Mr Benguit is represented by CLP Solicitors (City Office) 2nd Floor 5-6 Staple Inn, Holborn, London, WC1V 7QH.

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 633 1806 or e-mail press@ccrc.gov.uk

What happens next?
Once a case is referred for appeal by the CCRC, a new appeal must be heard and it is up to the Court of Appeal to schedule the necessary proceedings to hear the case. While the Commission pays close attention to the cases it refers for appeal, once a referral is made the Commission's formal role is at an end. For the subsequent appeal, the appellant is represented in Court by their own counsel as they would be in any other appeal. Normally the appellant's legal representative will argue the case based on the Commission's reasons for referral. If the appellant's representative wishes to add any other grounds to the appeal that are not issues raised in the Commission's Statement of Reasons for referral, they must seek the permission, or leave, of the Court in order to so.

Is there more information available?

When making a referral, the CCRC issues a Statement of Reasons setting out in detail its analysis of the case and the reasons for the decision to refer. The Commission sends a copy of its Statement of Reasons to the applicant, to the appeal court and to the prosecuting authority. The Criminal Appeal Act 1995 restricts the Commission's distribution of Statement of Reasons to these parties only; the Commission is prohibited from supplying documents and details of cases to the media or the public.

The Commission will not comment further on a case once it has been referred. Most cases are discussed in detail during the appeal hearing.

The Commission has made earlier public statements in relation to its investigation into the case of Omar Benguit. In November 2011, the CCRC said:

'In May 2010 the Commission received an application for a review Omar Benguit's 2005 murder conviction. Our substantive review began in August 2010.

'The submissions made to the Commission in respect of Mr Benguit focussed principally on Danilo Restivo being an alternative suspect for the 2002 murder of Jong-Ok Shin (known as Oki Shin). The Commission has been following several lines of enquiry in relation to our review of Mr Benguit's conviction. Those lines also include the fact that a witness from the trial later appeared in an episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show to give an account of her involvement in the case. That is one of the many issues will be considering as part of our review, but it is too early to say what implications, if any, it may have for the case'.

About the Commission

  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.
  2. There are 11 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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'.
  5. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.