A miscarriage of justice is defined as a legal situation in which someone is wrongly punished by a court of law for something they did not do.
It is not straightforward however, there are challenging complexities. It might also be used to describe the perpetrator of a crime who by due course of lawful process is later found to be not guilty and released. This can be the result of appeals and retrials in which the evidence is restudied, and the original conviction is deemed unsafe. Right and wrong is not a lawful process. Just because somebody is found not guilty of a crime it does not necessarily mean they are innocent.
Orenthal James, (OJ), Simpson was found not guilty of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in June 1994. His eight month trial concluded in 1995. Despite all the evidence and a clear motive his defence team led by the charismatic Jonnie Cochrane upheld their duty to the court which was to defend him. They discredited the evidence, maintaining it was corrupted and contaminated. The verdict was concluded by the jury not by his defence team. OJ Simpson did not look guilty. Here was a famous film star and successful football player, “The Juice”, he did not fit the profile of a murderer. He was black and at that time in the USA this was a significant issue with the jury. The “race and celebrity” factors were everything to do with the final verdict.
Did the not guilty verdict mean that OJ Simpson was innocent of perpetrating those brutal murders? Was this a miscarriage of justice?
The families of the victims filed a civil suit against him in 1997. A civil jury concluded a unanimous judgement against him for their wrongful deaths. OJ Simpson did everything he could to avoid paying any of the $35,500,000 he was ordered to pay in compensation. He moved to Florida where assets cannot be seized to cover liabilities originating in other states. In 2008 and totally unrelated, he was imprisoned for armed robbery and kidnap.
The image above is one of Barry George in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. He served 7 years for the murder of TV personality, Jill Dando in April 1999. Following appeals he was acquitted in 2008. He came to the Island with his family for some rest and recuperation and to escape unwanted elements of the media. Before the group crossed The Solent they had stayed with new friends in Southsea, Portsmouth. This was Sion and Christina Jenkins.
Sion Jenkins had been convicted for the murder of his 13-year-old foster daughter, Billie-Jo in 1998. He had been finally acquitted in 2006 after a process of appeals and two retrials that had failed to reach a majority verdict for his guilt. He had met Barry George’s sister, Michelle Diskin Bates at a miscarriage of justice meeting in Glasgow. She brought Sion Jenkins and her brother together and it was reported that they had struck up a keen friendship, the articulate middle-class deputy headmaster now re married to a lady who was able to financially support him and the poorly educated lumbering dysfunctional fantasist. It was an odd union.
Sion Jenkins had acquired a number of supporters whilst he was incarcerated. Not only did he have supporters who genuinely felt he was innocent, he had attracted a number of female admirers who wrote to him in prison.
This condition may be considered odd, but it is not uncommon. These women are often sexually aroused by men who have committed, (or have been accused), of heinous crimes, a condition called Hybristophilia, also called, Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome. Murderers who have reached a rather sick celebrity status like Ted Bundy, Oscar Pistorius and even Ian Huntley have courted such admiration. Jenkins became particularly close to Christina Fernyhough, a divorcee who at the time was living and working in London. They first met in October 2004 and married in February 2005 when Jenkins was released on bail and before his formal release.
One can only imagine what Barry George and Sion Jenkins talked about when they met. What did they think, did they ever suspect each other. Both families had found religion. Christina Jenkins according to her family was an atheist before she met Sion Jenkins. Estranged from some members of her family and friends her apparent mild eccentric behaviour had now risen to a form of associated celebrity status.
What did these two men have in common?
They both spent time in prison for crimes they were initially found guilty of but had now been acquitted because juries in both instances after re-trails and appeals had concluded that their convictions were unsafe.
The judicial system however has refused them both compensation for wrongful convictions. This was because the subsequent not guilty verdicts by due process following the appeals and retrials did not in the eyes of the judiciary mean they were innocent of committing the crimes. The system quite rightly considers a defendant innocent unless proven guilty. In this case both defendants had been originally found guilty in the eyes of the law. However, both cases relied on evidence that was purely circumstantial. Released by virtue of unsafe convictions juries were moved to find them not guilty. That was absolutely right but that had nothing to do with whether they committed the crimes. Many argue that this is grossly unfair.
Both killings were extremely high risk and in daylight. Jill Dando’s murderer used a gun that was already in his possession, Billie-Jo Jenkins was bludgeoned with an iron tent peg that was in the family back garden. The killings were suddenly perpetrated within narrow windows of opportunity. Both murderers suddenly exploded in a blind frenzy of violence, momentarily oblivious to the likelihood of being seen. By pure chance and luck, they were not witnessed, heard, or caught in the act.
Jenkins was found to have blood spray from the victim, his daughter Billie-Jo on his clothing and shoes. The prosecution in his original trial argued this was proof. The defence concluded this resulted from Billie-Jo exhaling her last breaths whilst Jenkins was holding her. The police found FDR, (firearm discharge residue), in a coat pocket belonging to George eleven months after Jill Dando’s murder. Elements of the chemical configuration matched the residue discharged from the murder weapon. The prosecution argued this was proof. The defence argued it was inconclusive random material that was merely picked up by chance.
Both suspects embarked on exaggerated alibi reasonings and routes.
Jenkins drove two of his other daughters to a shopping mall in the immediate period after the police concluded Billie-Jo was attacked in the family back garden. She was painting patio doors. He drove a convoluted and exaggerated route. He went to buy white spirit but discovered on arrival that he didn’t have any money. When they returned home, he found Billie-Jo dying. The prosecution maintain he had attacked her, then immediately embarked on an unnecessary shopping trip to form a period alibi and enough time to minimise the chance of Billy-Jo’s survival. Police found white spirit already at his property.
The Met police in London received calls from the HAFAD, a charity agency, (Hammersmith and Fulham Action for Disability), and Traffic Cars, a taxi firm, just two days after Jill Dando’s murder. Both locations had been visited by a known client called Barry Bulsara, who had come back to verify that he was at their locations on the morning of the murder. Both organisations had described his odd manner and bizarre insistence that they remember his being there at the time of Jill Dando’s murder. His reasoning was his fear that the police would suspect him being involved in her murder, and he needed their help in establishing an alibi. When the police looked up Barry Bulsara, they found nothing suspicious about him on record and he was considered low interest.
At the time they were inundated with information from a keen public. Barry Bulsara was at the time just another fantasy identity of Barry George. He was masquerading as a “cousin” of the rock and pop icon, Freddy Mercury. Had the police made that connection at the time what would they have found. It was almost a year before Barry George and all his bizarre history would come into the frame.
Barry George initially lied to the police about his whereabouts at the time of Jill Dando’s murder when he was first interviewed in 2000. His defence attributed this to the time that had elapsed and his limited mental condition and capacity. His habit of using alternative names had kept the police away.
George had meted out violence to women in the past, Sion Jenkins was accused of such by his wife but emphatically denied it. George had been served with suspended sentences for indecent assault and had served time in prison for attempted rape. His short marriage to his Japanese wife in 1989 had ended in 1990. He was arrested for assaulting her but later released. After their divorce she fled back to Japan claiming her relationship with Barry George was violent and terrifying. After Sion Jenkins was arrested in March 1997 his wife Lois immediately suspected him and considered he was perfectly capable of murder. She claimed to the police that he had physically abused her during their marriage, on one occasion perforating an eardrum. She had described how he was capable of perpetrating a frightening and violent outburst and then immediately being able to show total calm. She claimed that he had also beaten the children, his five daughters, including Billie-Jo.
Jenkins was alleged to have had a bizarre 5 month affair with a 17 year old in 1997. She gave a statement to the police, but the entire story was deemed inadmissible in court during his original trial. That was undoubtedly right but it did not reveal Jenkins as the pillar in the community that he strived to be. Here was a 40 year old deputy headmaster in a controlling sexual affair with a 17 year old care worker. Her boyfriend’s father was another member of staff at the school. Sion Jenkins had apparently met her one evening when he had visited his colleague at his home. The girl was surprised by Sion Jenkins’ confidence and persistence. She became intensely attracted to him. She claims they embarked on an affair despite the age gap but she remained aware of his strange behaviour and requests. She became uncomfortable and eventually ended the relationship. She was later shocked and disturbed to discover that she looked exactly like Billie-Jo Jenkins. Sion Jenkins just simply denies it ever happened.
Lois Jenkins divorced Sion Jenkins and fled to Tasmania with their four daughters three years after his conviction. She was criticised for not bringing her allegations of his violence to the attention of the police before the murder, Jenkins supporters and defence doubting her credibility. Perhaps Lois Jenkins was just a victim example of this type of undetected and under reported abuse. Domestic violence has always existed, and it continues to fester amongst a surprising amount of families all over the world. Domestic violence is like an iceberg, only a small amount is visible on the surface and most of it goes unreported.
Both men continue to plough and sift through evidence to prove their innocence. Both respective police forces, Metropolitan and Sussex have come under criticism by George and Jenkins supporters for failing to continue the search for the two murderers who they claim are still at large. Both police forces have stated that they have no further lines of enquiry to pursue. They simply maintain that they completed their tasks.
Both men have presented what some consider to be fantasy side lines of distraction. Barry George claimed that in 2008 just weeks after his acquittal and release that he was accosted by an unknown person in a shelter accommodation hallway in Hackney. Apparently threatened with a gun to his head he was warned to, “Watch his back”. From this are we left to assume that someone feared that the Met Police would now re-open the case and find Jill Dando’s real killer. How would threatening Barry George help to thwart that. George considered that it was someone linked to BBC Crimewatch who threatened him. He was disappointed when the police did not take him seriously.
Sion Jenkins in his book, “The murder of Billie-Jo”, claims that he came face to face with who he now considers to be his daughter’s killer. He mistook this smart and well dressed man as a plain clothes police officer who Jenkins claims, was actually in his house in the immediate period the police arrived on the day of the murder. The question in both instances of course is, did these events actually happen or were they invented.
What are these men, blood brothers or true victims of a gross miscarriage of justice? Barry George’s sister, Michelle Diskin Bates has become an ambassador for miscarriages of justice and I believe she is a decent honourable lady. She had a book published in 2018, “Stand Against Injustice”. It is a well written and moving narrative despite the intense irritation of being littered with scripture and religious references.
Towards the end of the book she reveals her support for the imprisoned psychopath, Jeremy Bamber. She believes that the evidence that convicted him of killing his family in 1985 is questionable. The charming and articulate Bamber has always maintained his innocence and he has also harvested a keen female following. I do wonder if Michelle Diskin Bates has considered trying to organise a meeting between Barry George and Jeremy Bamber.
Sion Jenkins co-author Bob Woffinden was also a staunch campaigner for miscarriages of justice. That had included the murderers, James Hanratty and Jeremy Bamber. Bob Woffinden saw the light in 2011 and gallantly admitted that he had been foxed by Bamber and his campaign team. Sion Jenkins was supported by Sir Ludovic Kennedy another staunch campaigner who had spoken up for the convicted murderer James Hanratty who was hanged in 1961. In 2002 DNA confirmed Hanratty’s guilt. Sir Ludovic extracted all references to Hanratty in his subsequent publications.
You couldn’t make all this up.
On the 15th July 1992 Rachel Nickell, 23, was murdered on Wimbledon Common in South-West London. The initial Met Police investigation resulted in questioning local potential suspects and this included Barry George. They finally arrested Colin Stagg in controversial circumstances. Stagg was local, unemployed and known to frequent the park area. He fitted the image of the murderer as seen by the police and the profiling experts they employed. Prior to his arrest he was subjected to a bizarre honey trap set up by this joint effort. This involved an undercover female officer befriending Stagg and attempting to get him to admit to the murder. It failed because Stagg was completely innocent. The perpetrator was in fact Robert Napper who was convicted of the murder in 2008. Whilst the police had focused on Stagg, Napper had murdered again in 1993, a year after Rachel Nickell and he was already in Broadmoor as a result.
Colin Stagg spent over a year in custody. He was wrongfully arrested, and he was rightly compensated. So indeed, was the undercover female police officer who was psychologically damaged by the experience and retired from the police force. The Met Police came under much criticism for their actions.
I interviewed a retired police officer from the Avon and Somerset force who was involved in the Joanne Yeates murder investigation in Bristol in 2010. In that instance her landlord, Christopher Jefferies was arrested as a suspect. Jefferies lived in the same property as Joanne Yeates, a building he had converted into flats in the elegant Bristol location of Clifton.
The actual murderer, Dutch engineer, Vincent Tabak was another tenant and had tried to implicate Jefferies. The retired college lecturer was an eccentric looking man. His manner and mop of unkempt white hair and physical appearance was cruelly turned into a twisted profile by the media. The police officer admitted that the general feeling even amongst his colleagues was driven for a time by the media. Despite that however they conducted meticulous searches in his property and interviews. This revealed nothing to implicate him. Jefferies was bailed for several months whilst the investigation continued. He was later to receive an apology and rightful compensation.
Stagg and Jefferies were true miscarriages of justice or more correctly, victims of wrongful arrests. Due process of investigation deemed them both innocent and totally uninvolved in the crimes they were suspected of. Whether innocent or guilty, George and Jenkins are completely different. Both men were in the vicinity of the respective murders they were accused of. Both individuals went to extreme lengths to obtain alibis. Why would they do this if they were innocent. Colin Stagg and Christopher Jefferies never had cause to build any defence.
THE QC PERSPECTIVE
Michael Mansfield QC representing Barry George in his original trial for Jill Dando’s murder favoured the theory that she was murdered by a professional Serbian hitman, including this tack in his summing up. It was not his job as defence counsel to prove George’s innocence. He lost the case and Barry George was found guilty by a jury in 2001. Mansfield had represented Mohamed Al-Fayed during the inquest into the deaths of Princess Diana and his son Dodi Al-Fayed in Paris. Al-Fayed of course made preposterous allegations about the establishment and supported conspiracy theories including those citing Prince Phillip and MI6 being involved in a murder plot. Mansfield was astute enough not to openly support Al-Fayed’s ludicrous suggestions but has since voiced his opinion about a supposed plot to murder Diana.
Diana simply and tragically died in a vehicle collision as a result of injuries sustained. She was not wearing a seatbelt. In a meeting I had in 2013 with one of her Royal security team he expressed his and his colleagues constant concern about her habit of not wearing a restraint whenever she travelled in the back of a car. He described her as a gregarious and enormously warm and friendly individual who delighted in leaning between the two front seats and simply chatting to her security team, driver, and escort; she had to be almost bullied into wearing it. Then of course she was cared for by professionals. In Paris, probably with the exception of her personal bodyguard the ex-paratrooper Trevor Rees-Jones she was no longer in the care of professionals at all. Her driver Henri Paul was an Al-Fayed favoured amateur and he simply ran out of talent trying to impress his doomed passengers whilst fleeing from nothing more than Paparazzi.
In November 2019 I had a very fortuitous meeting with a distinguished QC who is a close colleague and friend of Michael Mansfield. This QC was not involved with the Jill Dando case. He explained the role of barristers, their duty being to the court. It was not a question of guilt or innocence from an emotive perspective it is about proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The job of the defence is simply to discredit the prosecution’s evidence. He admitted that courtrooms can be a theatrical process and skilful barristers’ manoeuvre around prejudices and simple opinions; that is their job. I found him fascinating to talk to, he was a true gentleman and I liked him. At the end of our discussion we talked about the Dando case and this is where he surprised me. He reflected on the theory that Jill Dando was possibly murdered by a Serbian gunman. I was immediately intrigued; this QC could be as influenced outside a case as any of us by determined press speculation and forceful opinions. It demonstrated to me that any of us can be influenced, convinced, swayed and sometimes totally blinded by speculation – all of us. We also discussed the 2012 Annecy murders; an event he was quick to remind me he had not personally studied. Once again however he brought up the speculative theories.
Barry George was acquitted in 2008 after successful appeals, this time defended by William Clegg QC who focused his defence argument on what was to become inadmissible evidence; the FDR, (Firearm Discharge Residue), and the fibre of clothing found on Barry George’s coat. The jury was convinced that both samples were concluded to be too random despite having relevant matches with the firearm propellant used and Jill Dando’s clothing. Clegg also leaned towards the statements made by the HAFAD staff. They stated that the timings they recalled seeing George were between 11:50 and 12:00 which Clegg insisted would not have given George enough time to commit the murder at 11:30 and then walk home to change and reach the HAFAD location.
I find that particularly interesting and quite how that was accepted I don’t know because it was entirely possible.
Some barristers seemingly cannot resist the temptation to offer personal remarks and give opinions after a case is concluded. At the conclusion of Barry George’s re-trial William Clegg was quoted to say,
“The case reflects a desperation on the part of police that after a year they didn’t have the faintest idea who had done it. It’s sad for Barry to be falsely accused and wrongly convicted.”
Clegg even added further 20 years later,
“It’s unlikely we will know who killed her”.
William Clegg QC did not have to make any such remarks after his successful defence case to reinforce the fact that Barry George was seen fit to be acquitted. Why would he refer to the police as “desperate” and devoid of the “faintest idea” who committed the crime. Did he really believe that because it is of no importance and completely irrelevant.
Barry George was refused compensation for wrongful imprisonment. His re-trail did not prove his innocence it reinforced an element of reasonable doubt and that is enough for acquittal. Barry George walked free, that was all. In a 2019 TV documentary the now retired Hamish Campbell reiterated in his quiet cadence that he believed no other suspect will ever be found. Barry George’s family were immensely relieved, none of them ever believing he was guilty.
Colin Stagg and Christopher Jefferies thankfully never had the ignominious experience of facing a prosecution counsel or clinging to the skills of their defence barristers at trial. No defending or prosecution counsel was locked in a legal battle for the fates of these two men. Thus, there was no outcome speculation, elegant references, lightening cross examination and court room summing up. Nevertheless, both men despite being totally innocent, suffered as a result.
Sion Jenkins and Barry George are free men. They live with their innocence or guilt whichever it is. Only they truly know. They have to live amongst their supporters and accusers.