May 19 2013 Latest news:
Emma Bartholomew, Senior Reporter
Thursday, May 17, 2012
The Hoxton man who spent seven years locked up for a murder he always maintained he did not commit, had his conviction quashed by Court of Appeal judges today.
Sam Hallam, 24, was at the Court of Appeal to hear the announcement by Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Openshaw and Mr Justice Spencer his conviction is “unsafe”.
Sam was convicted at the Old Bailey in 2005 of the murder of trainee chef Essayas Kassahun and sentenced to life.
But yesterday he was dramatically released on bail when prosecutors said they would not oppose his appeal.
His QC, Henry Blaxland, told the court that Mr Hallam was the victim of a “serious miscarriage of justice”.
Sam’s family and friends have waged a high-profile campaign insisting his innocence, with supporters including the actor Ray Winstone.
He was just 18 when he was found guilty of the murder of 21-year old Mr Kassahun, who died after being attacked by a group of youths on Clerkenwell’s St Luke’s estate in 2004.
As the judges gave their reasons for their decision, Sam sat in the public gallery with his mum Wendy Cohen.
Shouts of “justice” and applause rang out around the courtroom as the conviction was quashed in the light of fresh evidence relating to his alibi and identification.
At the start of the ruling in the packed courtroom, Lady Justice Hallett said: “This is yet another tragic example of the effects of gang violence.
“A fight that began for little reason and lasted less than five minutes left one young man dying in the street and several other young men incarcerated for many years.”
His case came before the appeal judges after it was referred to the court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.
His QC Henry Blaxland told the judges yesterday: “It is our case that this appellant Sam Hallam - and I put it boldly - has been the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice brought about by a combination of manifestly unreliable identification evidence, the apparent failure of his own alibi, failure by police properly to investigate his alibi and non-disclosure by the prosecution of material that could have supported his case.”
Paul May, who chaired the campaign to free Sam, said outside court relatives were considering a complaint to police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
He said Mr Hallam was also considering making a claim for compensation from the Home Office and decisions on any civil court damages claims would be a matter for lawyers.
Mr May said police had been “negligent” and Mr Hallam should not have been brought to trial.
He said supporters had been “amazed” when a prosecution barrister told judges that the appeal was no longer being contested.
“Sam should never have been brought to trial,” said Mr May. “The failure lay in the fact that the Metropolitan Police did not carry out a proper investigation. There were numerous leads that the police failed to follow up on. We say that is negligent.”
Mr May said Mr Hallam, who said nothing as he left court, was “in shock”.
“He’s had a tough time,” he said.
“He has been in prison for seven years. He’s lost the best years of his life. He’s going to need a lot of support.
“He’s obviously delighted but he’s also dazed.”
Mr Hallam headed straight to Cooke’s Pie and Mash Shop in Hoxton Street after being freed yesterday.
Hundreds of people celebrated his release on the streets of Hoxton last night.