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Sam Hallam cleared of murder after seven years in jail - May-17-12
Source: The Times - Law
A young man who spent more than seven years behind bars for a murder he did not commit had his conviction quashed by judges today.
Sam Hallam, 24, sat beside his mother Wendy Cohen in the public gallery at the Court of Appeal in London to hear the announcement by Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Openshaw and Mr Justice Spencer that his conviction was “unsafe”.
There was tumultuous applause and shouts of “justice” as the conviction was quashed.
Mr Hallam was 18 when he was sentenced at the Old Bailey in 2005 to life imprisonment for taking part in the mob murder of Essayas Kassahun, a trainee chef, on a high rise estate in North London in October 2004.
Yesterday afternoon he was dramatically released on bail by the three judges after prosecutors said that they were not opposing his appeal.
Henry Blaxland, his QC, told the court that Mr Hallam, of Hoxton, East London, was the victim of a “serious miscarriage of justice”.
Mr Blaxland had argued that the evidence of two witnesses identifying Mr Hallam at the scene of the killing — the only evidence linking him to the murder — was too contradictory to be safe. A lacklustre police investigation failed to follow up on other key evidence, including Mr Hallam’s alibi, he added.
Paul May, who led the campaign to free Mr Hallam, read a statement on his behalf outside court.
“I don’t want anyone else ever to suffer what I’ve been through since October 2004,” Mr Hallam said.
“The identification evidence against me was so unreliable it should have never been put to the jury.
“The Metropolitan Police should have followed up leads which would have proved my innocence of the terrible murder of Essayas Kassahun.
“They should have disclosed all the relevant evidence in their possession to my lawyers and they didn’t.”
He thanked the Criminal Cases Review Commission and Thames Valley Police for re-investigating his case.
“I now need time to recover with my family and friends from the nightmare I’ve suffered for the last seven and a half years.
“Justice has long been denied to me but it has now finally prevailed.”
The actor Ray Winstone joined Mr Hallam’s family and friends in waging a high-profile campaign insisting that he was innocent.
Last night Mr Winstone said that it was tragic that Mr Hallam’s father, Terry, had hanged himself 18 months ago during the turmoil and heartbreak of the wrongful conviction, and had not lived to see his son freed.
“Sam is free, but has lost seven years of his young life. The family can now hopefully rebuild their lives. But they can’t bring Sam’s dad back,” he said.
“So why did an innocent man serve seven years? For me it is the disgraceful unprofessional action of the police involved in this case, action that has caused a terrible stress within the family of the Hallams.”
Lady Justice Hallett gave the court’s reasons in a judgment lasting more than an hour.
“This is yet another tragic example of the effects of gang violence,” the judge said.
“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.”
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