Lawyers believe papers could provide strong grounds for appeal in case of man jailed for 1994 hitman murder
The court of appeal has instructed the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to investigate the authenticity of "explosive" documents in the case of Kevin Lane, jailed for life for a 1994 hitman murder. Lord Justice Hughes has asked the CCRC to deliver a progress report on this and other aspects of the case by the end of January.
The move was greeted by Lane's legal team and supporters as a step forward to what they hope will be an appeal.
During an hour-long hearing, Joel Bennathan, QC for Lane, told the court that documents, which number 70 pages, had been sent anonymously to Lane's lawyers. If authentic, they would be very strong grounds for the granting of an appeal.
Lane was jailed for life at the Old Bailey in 1996 for the murder of Robert Magill in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire. Magill was shot dead while out walking his dog by two men who fled in a BMW. Lane was later arrested and stood trial with another man, Roger Vincent, who was cleared. Vincent and another man have since been convicted of another unconnected contract killing.
The court heard that regardless of the papers, which Lane's lawyer, Maslen Merchant, has described as "explosive", there were many other aspects of the case that merited referral for appeal. One of the investigating officers in the murder case, Detective Inspector Christopher Spackman, had subsequently been convicted of serious offences of dishonesty and misconduct.
"What cannot be gainsaid is that Mr Spackman ? interfered in the criminal justice system," said Bennathan. Spackman's involvement in the murder inquiry and the later conviction of Vincent in another case were the "twin pillars" of the case for Lane, he said.
Hughes also required the CCRC to investigate other aspects of the case, including what had happened to a black bin liner on which Lane's fingerprints had been found. The CCRC was asked to report on its progress by 31 January.
Details were also sought of whether Vincent had ever been paid damages for false imprisonment in connection with the Magill case.
The hearing was attended by many of Lane's supporters, some of them wearing Free Kevin Lane T-shirts, and by members of his family.
There was a hung jury at Lane's first trial but he was convicted by a 10-2 majority at a subsequent trial. He is now in Rye Hill prison, serving a recommended minimum sentence of 18 years.
The CCRC has reviewed the case three times, with the latest review initiated three years ago but not yet completed.
Lane's case was one of the first to be covered by the Guardian's Justice on Trial site and is to be the subject of a documentary.