The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Stephen Lawless to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Lawless pleaded not guilty to possession of heroin with intent to supply when he stood trial at Greater Grimsby Crown Court in October 2003.
Mr Lawless accepted that he was in possession of heroin for personal use, but denied that he had supplied, or intended to supply the drug to anyone else. He was convicted of possession with intent to supply and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
He tried unsuccessfully to appeal against his sentence in 2004 but did not try to appeal against his conviction. He applied to the Commission in November 2010.
Following a long and complicated investigation, the Commission has decided to refer the case to the Court of Appeal because it believes there is now new material that gives rise to a real possibility that the conviction will be quashed.
The basis of the referral includes new information relating to the conduct of a police officer involved in the case. However, the detailed reasons for the referral are of a highly sensitive nature. As a result, the Commission has been able to disclose to Mr Lawless and his legal representative only a limited amount of information about the reasons for the referral. A document detailing the exact reasons has been sent to the Court of Appeal. It will now be for the Court to decide how much information it is appropriate to disclose in relation to the appeal itself.
The Commission can usually only consider a case if the applicant has exhausted their normal appeal rights. Mr Lawless had not previously appealed against his conviction. The Commission concluded that, it would be impossible for Mr Lawless to obtain the evidence on which the referral is based without access to the Commission’s resources and statutory powers to obtain relevant material and that therefore there were “exceptional circumstances” that meant we ought to investigate in spite of their having been no previous appeal against conviction in this case.
Mr Lawless was represented in his application to the Commission by Mr Mark Newby of Quality Solicitors Jordans, 4 Priory Place, Doncaster, DN1 1BP.
This press release was issued by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. For further enquires call 0121 233 1473 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 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 12 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 1,500 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Typically, around 3.5%, or one in 29, 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.