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News Round-Up Week Ending 13.11.15

(Posted on 12/11/15)

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News Round-Up Week Ending 13.11.15

Kevin Nunn Case to CCRC:

The CCRC is to review the 2006 conviction of Kevin Nunn for the murder of his girlfriend. Forensic Science Service files and Crown Court files have been obtained, and the commission is to consider new forensic testing following the recommendations of scientist Rosalyn Hammond.

Dr Hammond (who was part of the Stephen Lawrence scientific team) reported “there is a very high probability that re-examination of the material in this case will produce new evidence... There are many reasons why useful results may be obtained now where they were not previously.”

In February 2005 Dawn Walker’s body was found on a footpath beside the River Lark in Suffolk. It is not known how she died; the pathologist thought it likely that she died of hypothermia, though she could also have been asphyxiated.  Whoever murdered her had spent a considerable time with her. Sperm from an unknown male was found on her thigh though there was no evidence of a sexual assault.  

No forensic evidence was found to implicate Kevin Nunn.  At trial, the defence learned that sperm on the victim’s leg had been forensically tested but a DNA profile could not be obtained. The defence told the jury Kevin Nunn had a vasectomy. The prosecution said the sperm may have innocently got onto the victim’s leg after she put her towel down on a bench in a male changing room the day before she disappeared.  

Post-conviction Kevin Nunn’s solicitor asked the police for access to this sperm exhibit for new testing but Suffolk Constabulary refused saying it should be preserved in case of scientific developments.  It has since been argued that that time has come but the force has shifted its position, now citing reasons of costs and concern for the victim’s family. Other new work could be done now: the killer had left evidence at the scene. New work could now establish beyond all doubt who killed Dawn Walker.

With the help of Inside Justice, Kevin Nunn’s family and lawyers have been trying to get access to the samples for more than five years, but Suffolk Police have continued to refuse to hand them over. A challenge to this refusal was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2014.

"At last, after ten wasted years, Kevin's case is moving forward," said solicitor James Saunders. "It now isn't a question of whether there'll be further scientific work, but what forensic testing will be conducted. The CCRC have exercised their legal powers to take the materials from Suffolk Police and, thank heavens, Kevin's fate is no longer in their gift."

"It is so very difficult to sum up how our family are feeling right now after receiving the news from the CCRC," Kevin Nunn's sister Brigitte told Inside Justice. "Our family have spent ten long years trying to prove Kevin's innocence. Suffolk Police have been deliberately obstructive and continued to deny us access to the truth. We can now perhaps allow ourselves to see at last a light at the end of a very dark tunnel." 

Lords call on Gove to end IPP internment

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Susan Hulme reported on the Lords’ discussion of the fate of post-tariff IPP prisoners, some of whom have served more than five times the normal stretch for their crimes, with no knowledge of when they might finally be released.

“When will this Lord Chancellor finally decide to bring this terrible scourge to an end?” asked former Supreme Court Judge, Lord Brown. “This is a form of preventive detention, internment entirely alien to our traditional criminal justice approach.”

More than 4,000 prisoners languish in jail under IPPs, some for relatively minor offences. The sentence was abolished in 2012 [see this week’s article]. 

Michael Gove has the power to relax the test for release, though, speaking for the Government, Lady Evans said he had no plans to do so, but that the Parole Board was working through the list to see if people were ready to be released. She made no mention of rate of progress, or of the backlog, which could take ten years to clear.

Lord Morris, a former Labour law officer, said any delay “in considering cases is reprehensible but the safety of the public must always be paramount.” A point with which Lady Evans was happy to concur. 

However, former Prisons’ Inspector, Lord Ramsbotham added: “Some risk assessments are very old and the prisoners have changed in the time since that assessment was made.”

Sign Katherine Gleeson’s online petition at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/free-the-remaining-ipp-prisoners

Paratroopers loath to jump 

Lawyers for seven former soldiers facing questioning over the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings have begun legal action against the police, the Guardian reported.

The seven are seeking a judicial review of the way in which the Police Service of Northern Ireland is conducting the historical inquiry. The application, lodged at the high court in London, is under the anonymous letters of the alphabet given to the soldiers during the Saville inquiry into the Derry shootings that left fourteen civil rights protesters dead.

The PSNI spent several days interviewing Lance Cpl J before releasing him on Wednesday.