Barry George was wrongly convicted of the murder of Jill Dando, presenter of BBC’s Crimewatch, in July 2001. He spent the following seven years imprisoned, before his conviction was overturned in 2008. Most recently, George has been in the news for attempting to claim compensation for being wrongly convicted. His claim has been rejected.
Dando was murdered outside her home in Fulham, west London, on Monday 26 April 1999. George was arrested over a year later, in May 2000. Michael Mansfield QC represented him at trial. His closing speech to the jury began by examining the only direct evidence linking George to the scene of the crime; a particle of firearms discharge residue found in the inside pocket of an overcoat recovered a year after the fatal shooting. This particle was minute; measured in micron units and a mere one hundredth of a millimetre in diameter. Yet it was the focus of the Crown’s case. Expert evidence was called in relation to the residue, Dr John Lloyd gave evidence for the defence:
“there could scarcely be less residue at all…some laboratories have in fact not reported findings as significant when so little residue is found…the claims that it is so related [to the crime scene] are based on scientifically unsupported assumptions.”
Despite the apparent lack of direct evidence, George was found guilty of the murder. The jury pronouncing his guilt was one of eleven people, the twelfth having been discharged earlier that day, on account of a family death. The verdict was by a majority of ten to one.
Several days following conviction, one juror contacted George’s solicitor and the court, expressing his concerns about the verdict. The Court of Appeal refused to investigate the matter, and George’s conviction stood, at least for the following seven years.
The first appeal against conviction was unsuccessful. In 2002 the Court of Appeal concluded that the verdict was not unsafe, and therefore the appeal was dismissed. In 2006 a fresh appeal was sought and in 2007 the Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case back to the Court of Appeal. One of the main grounds was that the gunshot residue could have been present as a result of contamination when George’s coat was removed from its exhibit bag to be photographed as evidence.
In November 2007 George’s conviction was quashed, but the CPS refused to stop there. He was retried for the murder in June 2008. This time the Crown were unable to rely on the gunshot residue as evidence, as it had been ruled inadmissible by the trial judge. In August 2008 George was finally acquitted of the murder.
The claim for compensation due to George’s wrongful imprisonment commenced in 2010. This failed. A judicial review of that decision was allowed, however the end result was again one of failure. On 25 January 2013 Barry George was denied compensation for his wrongful conviction and subsequent imprisonment.
To read more about George’s compensation claim, and for an insight into criminal compensation, click here.