The 2009 manslaughter convictions of a father and son have been referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).
Martin and Nathan Winter were convicted at Lewes Crown Court of two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence in December 2009.
Their convictions related to the deaths of two East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service employees in an explosion at a fireworks business at Marlie Farm in Ringmer, Sussex on 3 December 2006. The victims were killed after a metal shipping container on site exploded.
Martin Winter, who was the director of the fireworks business, was sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment. Nathan Winter, who also worked there, was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment, later reduced to 4 years’ on appeal.
As part of their case, the prosecution alleged that Martin and Nathan Winter had been storing extremely explosive Hazard Type (“HT”) 1 fireworks in the shipping container, in contravention of their explosives licence. In their police interviews, Martin and Nathan Winter had both said that there were no HT1 fireworks in the container.
The Court of Appeal dismissed appeals against these convictions in 2010. In 2011, Martin Winter applied to the CCRC. The CCRC decided not to refer his case to the Court of Appeal in 2013.
In 2015 Martin and Nathan Winter again applied to the CCRC and the CCRC decided not to refer their convictions to the Court of Appeal. In January 2020, the Administrative Division of the High Court granted Martin and Nathan Winter permission to challenge that decision by way of Judicial Review.
The CCRC agreed to take another look at the case.
Having carefully reconsidered this complicated case, the CCRC has decided that expert evidence not heard at trial may undermine the prosecution’s case that there were HT1 fireworks in the container.
This gives rise to a real possibility that the Court of Appeal would now quash Martin and Nathan Winter’s convictions.
Martin and Nathan Winter were represented in their CCRC application by Michael Birnbaum QC.
This press release was issued by the Communications Team, Criminal Cases Review Commission. They can be contacted by phone on: 0121 232 0900 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to Editors
- The CCRC is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently 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 currently 11 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC 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 CCRC usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.
- The CCRC 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.