Murder case acquital for Keith Hollywood and Courtney Griffiths QC.
Our client was arrested on suspicion of murder when he attended Leyton Police Station on 27 May 2014 in connection with relatively minor offences. Fortunately we had attended with him. The officer in the case gave very limited disclosure. As we were unable to assess the evidence the defendant was advised to give a no comment interview.
The case concerned a fatal stabbing outside the Beaver Centre, Salinas Lane, Dagenham. There were 7 defendants on trial at the Central Criminal Court. The Crown’s case was that the victim was attacked by a large group which included the use of bottles, fists, boots and at least one knife. The victim sustained five stab wounds, the fatal wound being to the heart. The pathologist estimated the depth of the wound and hence length of the knife blade at 9cms with a 2-2.5cm width. There were also blunt force injuries sustained to the victim’s body, face, shoulder and the back of his head consistent with punches and blows with bottles.
From the outset our client denied that he was guilty of murder. He said he did not stab the victim. He was not at any stage in possession of a knife, bottle or any other weapon. He had no prior knowledge that anyone else was in possession of a knife and nor did he see he possibility that anyone might be in possession of or use a knife to attack the victim.
There was extensive CCTV evidence. The prosecution claimed that one camera had recorded compelling evidence which the officer in the case claimed showed our client:
…reach into the waistband of his trousers and strike out towards the deceased with an object in his right arm, after which he was pulled away from the deceased and moved his right hand back to the rear of his trousers.
and goes on to speculate that our client:
was armed with something small, possibly a knife based on the fact that [the victim] received stab injuries and the way in which he (our client) is holding it concealed against his waistband and the way he brings it down to his side prior to lunging towards the area [the victim] was last seen…
So the Crowns case was not only that our client was part of a joint enterprise which resulted in the victim’s death but that he caused the fatal wound.
There were many challenges in the preparation of this case for trial. There was extensive CCTV evidence which had to be watched and logged so that a precise account of the movement of individuals could be prepared, there was telephone evidence to analyse communications before and after the assault, there was video enhancement to be undertaken as well as psychological assessment, there were the complications arising from 7 defendants each with separate accounts. The greatest challenge was the decision as to whether our client should give evidence, give his account to the jury.
Our client accepted that he had been involved in a fracas with a security guard and that he may have thrown a punch at the victim. Giving evidence meant not only explaining to the court with the help of his barrister Courtney Griffiths Q.C. what had happened but also facing potentially hostile cross examination from barristers for his 7 co-defendants who would try and portray him as the principal assailant. We had prepared a very detailed cross referenced account of the incident. It seemed from that account and some evidence from the Crown concerning where bood had been spilled that our client could show that he was not in the vicinity of the victim when the fatal blow was struck. Our client decided to give evidence and told the court what had happened. He was in the witness box over 2 days. He had not been involved in a stabbing; he had not known that any of his co-defendants had a knife; the officer had misinterpreted the CCTV evidence which did not show him holding any weapon and certainly not one that could inflict the 9cm fatal wound. His co-defendants counsel attacked him as expected but his account remained firm.
The trial lasted 6 weeks. The jury deliberated for another week. Our client was acquitted whilst 2 co-defendants were found guilty of the murder.
Kith Hollywood one of our serious crime experts did this case