29 September 2020
The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the sexual assault conviction of Ahmed Mohammed. It is the 750th case to be referred for appeal by the public body created in 1997 to independently investigate alleged miscarriages of justice.
In February 2004, at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court, Mr Mohammed was convicted of indecently assaulting two women in separate incidents in Tooting, South London, in the summer of 2001.
Mr Mohammed denied having anything to do with the indecent assaults. The central issue in proceedings against Mr Mohammed was whether or not he had been correctly identified as the attacker.
In 2002, a jury decided that, because of mental health issues, Mr Mohammed was not fit to plead in a full criminal trial. A trial of the facts was therefore held in which Mr Mohammed played no active part.
In spite of alibi testimony from a member of Mr Mohammed’s family, the jury in the trial of the facts concluded that he had carried out the indecent assaults. The judge made a hospital order, with restrictions under s41 of the Mental Health Act 1983. The effect of that order was to have Mr Mohammed detained in hospital. His name was also added indefinitely to the Sex Offenders Register.
Mr Mohammed’s legal representatives applied to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal against the verdict in the trial of the facts, but the application was refused.
In 2004, when Mr Mohammed’s mental health had improved, he faced a full criminal trial for the offences. He pleaded not guilty but was convicted. The judge imposed another hospital order with restrictions.
No attempt was made to appeal against the conviction.
In 2017 Mr Mohammed applied to the CCRC for a review of the jury’s finding at the trial of the facts in 2002. The CCRC began a review of that finding. At that stage, the CCRC had not been informed that the trial of the facts in 2002 had been followed by the full criminal trial and conviction in 2004.
In 2019, when it became clear that a subsequent criminal conviction had superseded the finding at the trial of the facts, the CCRC focussed its attention on the conviction at the full trial.
During its review the CCRC used its section 17 powers extensively to obtain material from the police, the Crown Court, the Court of Appeal, National Offender Management Service (NOMS), NHS records and the Forensic Archive.
The Crown Prosecution Service no longer had any papers and the defence solicitors had gone out of business and their files destroyed.
The CCRC contacted members of Mr Mohammed’s family as well as defence counsel in both the 2002 trial of the facts and the 2004 full trial, but details about the investigation and proceedings, and particularly the full trial, were scarce.
The CCRC also explored forensics in the case. Neither the police nor the Forensic Archive had retained any objects relating to the offences, such as a mobile phone which had featured in the police investigation and been swabbed for DNA but produced no usable evidence.
However, the CCRC identified a potential forensic opportunity in using modern DNA techniques, if any samples extracted from the swabs had survived even though the phone itself had not.
The Forensic Archive did locate the samples and the CCRC arranged for DNA testing. The test yielded one male DNA profile, which was submitted for a one-off speculative search of the National DNA Database. The search yielded one good match with an SGM+ profile on the DNA database.
When the CCRC investigated that person’s background, it was found that he had been local to the area in which the attacks occurred. Further, contemporary police records suggested that he was a good match, and arguably a better match than Mr Mohammed, for the descriptions that the victims had given of the offender. He also had a conviction for a different kind of sexual offence committed in Tooting in 2003.
It should be stressed that the new DNA evidence found by the CCRC does not prove that this man committed these or any offences.
However, the CCRC has reached the conclusion that the new information in relation to the DNA extracted from the mobile phone, and around the identification of Mr Mohammed as the attacker, raises a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will now quash his conviction. Accordingly, the CCRC has referred the case for appeal.
Mr Mohammed was legally represented during his application to the CCRC by Brett Wilson LLP of Grant House, 56 – 60 St John Street, London EC1M 4HG.
750 CCRC referrals
This is the 750th case to be referred to the appeal courts by the CCRC since we were created in 1997.
This means the CCRC has on average referred one case for appeal every eight working days since we began working April 1997.
Of the 750 cases referred:
- 656 were conviction referrals and 94 were sentence only
The referrals made so far have related to:
- 159 murder convictions
- 11 manslaughter
- 129 sexual offences
- 77 drug related offences
- 54 robbery cases
- 11 driving offences
- four kidnapping cases.
More than 80 involved young people aged 21 or under. In more than 70 cases the applicants were women.
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 232 0906 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors
- 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.
- There are currently 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 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 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.
- More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate