In the Media

Jeremy Bamber lawyers challenge refusal of appeal

PUBLISHED May 7, 2012

Lawyers acting for the convicted murderer Jeremy Bamber have issued a legal challenge to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) following its decision not to refer his case back to the court of appeal. They say the commission has acted "unlawfully, overstepped its powers and usurped the function of the appeal court".

The CCRC's decision last Thursday came after it considered new evidence, largely relating to a silencer attached to the rifle Bamber was said to have used to kill five members of his family in 1985.

Four eminent ballistic and wounds experts submitted reports suggesting the silencer was not attached to the rifle when the shots that killed Bamber's adoptive parents, June and Nevill, his sister Sheila Caffell and her six-year-old twins, Nicholas and Daniel, were fired.

The silencer was a crucial element of the case against Bamber. The police initially thought Caffell had killed her family before turning the weapon on herself. The rifle was found next to her body, without the silencer, which was discovered later by relatives. The prosecution claimed Caffell did not have the reach to shoot herself with the silencer attached.

The CCRC rejected the new expert submissions, saying they did not give rise to a real possibility that the court of appeal would find Bamber's convictions unsafe. It described the new evidence as "matters of pure speculation and unsubstantiated allegations".

In a letter of claim to the CCRC, seen by the Guardian, Bamber's lawyers describe this reference as a "gross misrepresentation of the nature and content of the submissions". They say the commission should not dismiss expert evidence without calling for expert opinion countering it. They accuse the CCRC of "advancing expert opinion which, in the absence of the relevant expertise, it is not equipped to do".

The lawyers say the basis of a judicial review of the CCRC's decision will be that it acted unlawfully in applying the wrong test in determining whether to refer the case back to appeal, and failed to provide reasons why the correct test was not carried out.

Bamber, 51, was jailed for life in 1986. He was ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years but, in 1994, the sentence was increased to whole life by the then home secretary, Michael Howard.

A spokesman for the CCRC said it was considering how to respond to the letter.