84,000 sign petition to quash murder convict’s ‘miscarriage of justice’
More than 80,000 people - including a senior MP - have backed a murder convict’s fresh appeal to clear his name amid cries he has faced a “miscarriage of justice”.
Oliver Campbell, who has severe learning difficulties from a brain injury he suffered as a child, spent 11 years in various prisons after a jury found him guilty in 1991 of shooting dead a shopkeeper in Hackney.
A reported confession during police interview was used as a key part of the evidence to convict the 50-year-old, who has lived in Suffolk ever since finishing his jail term at Hollesley Bay Prison, near Woodbridge.
Yet there has long been doubt cast over his guilty verdict, with Mr Campbell’s solicitor, Glyn Maddocks, and barrister, Michael Birnbaum QC, saying: “Much of the police questioning was misleading and unfair.”
The BBC’s Rough Justice documentary brought in a ballistics expert to challenge evidence and former Ipswich MP Sandy Martin told parliament earlier last year: “Oliver simply was not capable of carrying out such a crime.”
Mr Maddocks and Mr Birnbaum have now sent a “detailed” appeal to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), imploring them to refer the case to Court of Appeal.
They say Mr Campbell’s trial was “unfair” because the jury never heard police evidence that his co-defendant, Eric Samuels, had named another man as the gunman shortly after being charged.
“That would’ve been pretty significant evidence to any jury,” Mr Maddocks said.
They also say evidence used to identify Mr Campbell at the crime scene was “weak” - the gunman was said to be shorter than 6ft 3in Mr Campbell - and that there were huge breaches in legal procedure, with “admissions relied on by the prosecution were made in the absence of a solicitor and some even in the absence of an appropriate adult” despite Mr Campbell’s learning difficulties.
And as the CCRC promises to consider the appeal “objectively, independently and professionally”, a petition started on change.org has declared: “We want justice for Ollie.”
More than 84,000 people have signed the petition.
In addition, Labour MP Barry Sheerman is urging parliamentary colleagues to sign an Early Day Motion backing Mr Campbell’s campaign.
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Early Day Motions are signed by MPs to draw attention to certain issues.
Mr Maddocks said it was “incredibly impressive” to see how many people are backing the campaign.
“It shows just how strongly people feel about Oliver’s case - that as soon as they find out the facts, they want to sign the petition,” he said.
“The appeal submission has taken six months to do. It is a very detailed analysis of the case.
“The facts are as they are and always have been. Oliver was very vulnerable when charged and we believe police behaved in a quite aggressive way towards him.
“Nowadays, if he was on trial, he’d probably have an intermediary. There is a raft of legislation to protect people like Oliver.
“He didn’t have intermediary - his solicitors were there, but he was otherwise on his own.”
A summary of the CCRC said: “Over many years those who know Oliver have expressed disbelief and astonishment that he could commit so serious a crime.
“He was and still is regarded by all his friends as kind and helpful to others - a ‘gentle giant’.”
Mr Campbell - who is still on licence, meaning he cannot travel abroad and is subjected to closer monitoring by police - said in an interview with this newspaper last year: “I went into prison innocent, I came out innocent and I’ve been innocent all the way through.”
He said the conviction “has messed up my life for a long time”, adding: “It takes up your life for a lifetime.
“I could’ve had a full-time job, a relationship, had kids, a family life and travelled the world. I’ve lost all that.
“There are lots of people who have looked at my case and have said I shouldn’t have been convicted. In my view this is a complete miscarriage of justice.
“Anyone who worked in the prisons where I was knew that I was innocent. I knew from day one that I was innocent.”
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