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Commission refers the 1981 arson and manslaughter convictions of Peter Tredget (aka Bruce Lee) to the Court of Appeal

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the arson and manslaughter convictions of Peter Tredget[1] to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Tredget (then known as Bruce Lee) pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court  to 11 counts of arson and 26 related counts of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.  The charges related to eleven fires in Hull in the 1970s. 

The prosecution case was that, between June 1973 and December 1979, Mr. Tredget had set fire to 11 houses in and around the city of Hull, killing a total of 26 people. 

At the times of the fires, fire investigations and inquests concluded that all but one of the fires (the fatal fire at Selby Street) had started accidentally. The prosecution relied principally on confessions made by Mr Tredget who initially confessed to starting the fire at Selby Street and  went on to confess to starting ten other fires that caused death and serious injury. He also confessed to starting a further 14 non-fatal fires at a range of premises including shops, warehouses and lodging houses but was not  prosecuted for those.

Mr Tredget pleaded guilty at court and on 20th January 1981 he was sentenced to detention without limit of time in a secure mental hospital.

Mr Tredget appealed. The Court of Appeal upheld most of his convictions but, on 9th December 1983, quashed his conviction on one count of arson and 11 counts of manslaughter relating to a fire at Wensley Lodge old people’s home in Hessle, near Hull, in 1977. In relation to the remaining convictions Mr Tredget has remained in hospital detained without limit of time.

He applied to the CCRC in 2011. The Commission has conducted a thorough detailed and extensive investigation into Mr Tredget’s remaining convictions and the circumstances surrounding them. This has been one of the Commission’s longest ever running cases; the investigation has involved the commissioning of reports from numerous expert witnesses, obtaining and analysing of tens of thousands of pages of casework information, and the use of the Commission’s power under section 19 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 to appoint a police force to carry out specific enquiries on the Commission’s behalf and under its direction.

The Commission has decided to refer the case for appeal because it believes that new evidence identified in the course of its investigation raises a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will quash Mr Tredget’s convictions. The referral is based on a number of grounds including:

  • expert evidence obtained from a psychologist and a forensic linguist relating to the veracity of Mr Tredget’s confessions.
  • expert evidence from a specialist document examiner relating to written confessions. 
  • non-compliance with the Judges’ Rules and with the requirements of PACE in relation to interviews with Mr Tredget
  • expert evidence relating to the causes of the fires.

Mr Tredget was represented in his application to the Commission by  Steve Gelsthorpe of Cartwright King Solicitors –

[1] Mr Tredget was born Peter Dinsdale and changed his name to Bruce Lee prior to his arrest in 1980.  He subsequently changed his name to Peter Mawson and then to Peter Tredget.

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 07947 355231 or e-mail

Notes for editors

  1. The Commission 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.
  2. There are currently 13 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 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.
  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.
  6. More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate