Jon Robins’ meticulous and revelatory new book The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014) is a must-read for people who want to get a deeper understanding of the British criminal justice system. It’s about Tony Stock, who was accused of a violent robbery at the Merrion Centre in Leeds in 1970. The book is particularly relevant to David Oluwale’s case because Judge Hinchcliffe condemned Tony Stock at Leeds Crown Court, on utterly flimsy evidence, just as he partially exonerated the officers who brutalised David.

Judge Hinchcliffe showed his bias in the trial of Ellerker and Kitching for the assault and manslaughter of David Oluwale when he told the jury “I would have thought that had been established a thousand times. It is accepted on all hands that he was dirty, filthy, violent vagrant“, when there was plenty of evidence that David was never violent while sleeping rough with those who treated him decently. (Nor is being dirty a criminal offence.)

In the trial of Tony Stock, Hinchcliffe told the jury that they ‘might think that’ the lead officer in the case against Stock, Detective Sergeant John Mather, was ‘a splendid type of police officer’.  Readers ‘might think, I don’t know, it’s a matter for you’ (as Hinchcliffe put it) that this is an example of the judge’s bias in favour of police officers. It was described as ‘robust’ by Lord Justice Latham at the Court of Appeal in 2008 and ‘particular unfortunate’ given that DS Mather was convicted in 1972 of taking a bribe from a member of the public.

Just as Hinchcliffe was unable to see that the witness evidence against Stock was tainted and the police officers’ account of what Stock was supposed to have said to them was implausible (the ‘verbals’), in David’s trial he refused to give credence to evidence that David had been pursued near the river by two men in police uniforms shortly before he was found drowned in the river. In directing the jury to acquit on the manslaughter charge, we would argue he again showed his bias in favour of the Leeds police.

In his book, Jon Robins explains the life-long effort of Tony Stock to clear his name. He had been fitted up (via verbals and dodgy witness accounts) for a robbery at the Merrion Centre in Leeds n 1970 by two Leeds policeman called John Mather and Thomas Newton.  Unprecedentedly, the case has been to the Court of Appeal four times.  Tony Stock died in 2012 without justice being served.

Tony (who went on hunger strike while serving his time) had been supported by his various solicitors (includingRalph Saffron and  Barrington Black in Leeds, and Glyn Maddocks in Wales), QCs (including Mike Mansfield) and Tom Sargent at the great campaigning organisation JUSTICE. They, along with investigative journalist the late Paul Foot and the MP Barry Sheerman, as well as Jon Robins, remain convinced of his innocence.

So strong is his case that the Criminal cases Review Commission has (must unusually) pushed it back to the Court of Appeal three times. The highest judges in the land repeat their mantra that it is not a matter of the appellant’s guilt or innocence, it’s whether there is new and compelling evidence. The fact that supergrass Samuel Benefield has confessed that he and his gang committed the robbery (of Tesco’s employees on their way to the bank) cuts no ice, it seems.

Police procedure has been improved since the time of Tony Stock and David Oluwale, but obtaining justice for those whom the judicial system betrays seems to be as hard as ever.

Read more about Tony Stock and Robins’ important book here  on the excellent website called The Justice Gap. This website also includes an excellent article by Neil Wilby on David Oluwale’s case and the work of our Memorial Association.  Read it here