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Socialist Review, May 1994

Andy Russell

Talk Back

One law for them


From Socialist Review, No. 175, May 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Ever since the Guildford Four walked free from the Court of Appeal in 1989, to be followed since then by the Birmingham Six, Judith Ward, some of the many victims of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, the Taylor sisters and numerous other victims of judicial impropriety, the phrase miscarriage of justice has been on everyone’s lips.

Those fortunate enough to have their plight highlighted by the media, and who because of the subsequent outcry have been grudgingly freed by the Court of Appeal, are only the tip of the iceberg.

My own case is, I imagine, one of many, but because of the brazenness employed by the forces of the state in colluding to deny me access to justice, perhaps more than most it can describe the extent of the state powers when for whatever reason they decide to block the individual’s route to justice.

On 31 January 1988 I was arrested for allegedly perpetrating the escape by helicopter of two prisoners from Gartree prison. I was also questioned, voluntarily stood on an identification parade and gave forensic samples in relation to the robbery of a security van in the Archway area of north London. All identification and forensic tests proved negative.

During the interrogation of one of my co-defendants which was also tape recorded by the police, they openly bragged:

‘They’ll make an example of him, like they made an example of the Great Train Robbers because of the value, they’ll make an example of this because it’s the first time it happened in Britain! That helicopter’s been done like this and the prison authorities which is the Home Office, which are the ones who rule the judges, will make an example and Andy doesn’t need a trial ... if he goes for trial it’s a foregone conclusion.’

Events in both the Gartree and Archway cases have since proved this to be no idle boast on behalf of the police.

On 5 December 1988 the CPS wrote to my solicitors saying there was insufficient evidence against me to justify prosecution on the Archway robbery, but my co-defendant would be charged. On 25 July 1989 the CPS wrote to say that I would now be charged with the Archway robbery. There was no further evidence. They had simply changed their minds. Furthermore they had the Archway trial moved from London to Leicester where the Gartree trial had been heard, and where Justice Leonard, the Gartree trial judge, had agreed that, because of intense local publicity, that venue was no longer able to afford me a fair trial on other matters.

Despite solicitors and barristers telling me not to worry, as ‘they can’t do this’, they went ahead and did whatever they pleased. The judges, the so called guardians of justice, dismissed defence appeals of abuse of process, that the trial should be heard in London. On one occasion during a defence application that the Archway prosecution was an abuse of process, Lord Justice Watkins went so far as to ask in a rather acidic tone if my counsel realised that I was a double star category prisoner, the inference being that a person in my position or security category (which is decided by the Home Office) could not expect any justice from the courts.

It was somewhat prophetic of Richard Ingrams to write in his column in the Observer during March 1990, commenting on the six policemen who had charges against them arising out of the anti-Murdoch demonstrations at Wapping dismissed as an abuse of process by a Bow Street magistrate because of a delay in bringing the prosecution, that:

‘If the accused had been six gentlemen from the East End accused of bank robbery, it is perhaps unlikely that the Bow Street beak would have reacted as he did. So it is not fanciful to suggest that the fact that the accused were policemen carried some weight.’

Then to top it all Judge Smedley decided to penalise the defence for delays in my case, which were without exception wholly attributable to the prosecution, by ordering that the trial start in three weeks despite defence counsel not being available at such short notice and my alibi witness being in Australia for a period of six to 12 weeks. He ordered that I get someone else to read the case papers and represent me.

This was a rather different scene from that leading up to the trial of three Surrey police officers who were accused of fabricating evidence that led to the wrongful imprisonment of the Guildford Four. Heather Mills reported in the Independent during September 1992 how that trial had been deferred for an entire year alone, on the basis of unavailability of counsel.

Judge Smedley then ordered that the statement of my alibi witness, Stephen Brown – who would obviously not be able to attend the trial – be read. He even had the effrontery to say this would be better for me as my alibi witness could not be cross-examined. It was in fact better for the prosecution as the statement being read, which after all was only a brief outline of the evidence Stephen Brown proposed to give, meant that he could not clarify anything from the statement. During Judge Smedley’s summing up the jury was told that the defence case was that if Stephen Brown was to be believed then I must be acquitted. But he then went on to destroy the version of events described by my witness by stating that his statement could not be right, and illustrated this by saying that on one of the days I was supposed to be with Stephen Brown I was in fact with a person called Richard Smith. Judge Smedley knew that Stephen Brown and Richard Smith are the same person. He was also fully aware that the jury did not know this fact.

It is obviously not surprising that I was unjustly convicted and sentenced to a total of 20 years.

Barbara Mills, the Director of Public Prosecutions, stated in May 1992 that she would not be prosecuting officers of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad as there was insufficient evidence to justify prosecution. I wrote and asked her if it would be possible to alter this decision. The reply stated, ‘The Crown are bound by such decisions unless further evidence emerges.’

Well, the prosecution was reinstated against me without further evidence, despite Barbara Mills stating in letters to the Independent and the Guardian when defending her decision not to prosecute the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad: ‘Our criteria are, and must be the same whether the allegation is against a police officer or a member of the public.’

Liberty have recently added my case to their file of cases that in their opinion warrant further investigation. Justice, the organisation that deals with miscarriages of justice, is currently conducting an investigation into my case.

Friends have raised the money to pay for a renewed application for leave to appeal which is to take place this month.

What price is justice, in a country where ‘one law for them and another one for us’ prevails?


Andy Russell(JA0233)
Full Sutton Jail (SSB)
York YO4 1PS

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