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Police to blame for innocent Sam Hallam's seven years in prison

by Siân Ruddick

After seven years in prison, Sam Hallam had his murder conviction quashed in the Court of Appeal this week.

Sam has always said he was innocent and wasn’t at the scene of the murder.

Essayas Kassahun, aged 21, was killed in a fight between two groups of teenagers in North London on 11 October 2004.

Sam was convicted of the murder and an appeal in 2007 was rejected. Yet this week the court did not attempt to defend the conviction.

Matt Foot, one of Sam’s lawyers, told Socialist Worker, “There can be no doubt that we would not be here today if it wasn’t for the campaign by Sam’s family, friends and supporters.

“This was a serious miscarriage of justice and years of a young man’s life have been wasted because of the Metropolitan Police.”

Campaign

The campaign involved local people, trade unionists and justice campaigners, as well as many young people from Hoxton.

At the Court of Appeal this week the public gallery was packed. Sam’s friends shouted “justice” and cheered as the judgement was read out.

Sam blames the police for his imprisonment. Speaking outside the court, he said the investigation “just wasn't done properly. Them not doing their job properly cost me eight years of my life.”

The Met’s case in the 2005 trial rested on witness statements from Phoebe Henville and her friend Bilel Khelfa.

Neither named Sam when they were first questioned. There was no CCTV or forensic evidence linking Sam to the scene. Other parts of Henville’s evidence were contradicted by CCTV evidence.

Blame

At Sam’s 2005 trial she said under cross-examination that she was “just looking for someone on the spot to blame”. But still the judge allowed her evidence to stand. Khelfa disowned his written statement at the trial.

After extensive campaigning and the discovery of fresh evidence the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has the power to investigate miscarriages of justice, agreed to look at the case.

Thames Valley Police began its investigation in January 2010 and submitted its findings in June last year. It discovered that the Met had withheld evidence from the trial.

Matt Foot said, “This result is a massive victory. Thursday’s judgement backed the fact that the police and the prosecution did not disclose identification evidence that was central to the case.”


Evidence was withheld

Lawyer Matt Foot explained the importance of evidence that police didn't present at the original trial.

He said, “It would have shown the jury that the identification was even less certain. It wasn’t only Sam Hallam who was rumoured to be responsible for the murder.

“The second important thing was that Sam’s phone wasn’t analysed by the police. He had a new 3G phone which was seized from him when he was arrested.

“The police did not look at the photographs which showed he was with his gran and his dad on the day of the attack.”

When he was arrested, Sam told police he had been with a friend when the attack took place. He had mixed up the days, but was accused of creating a false alibi. Photos on the phone show him with the friend on the next day.

Matt went on, “This was a shoddy investigation. Police also failed to do cell site analysis on the phone, which shows where a phone was at a certain time.

'If they had done these things, this case would never have got to jury.”


Article information

News
Tue 22 May 2012, 17:25 BST
Issue No. 2304
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