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The BBC's John Silverman
"Campaigners have long argued that the trial was a miscarriage of justice"
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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 15:38 GMT
M25 Three trial ruled unfair

Raphael Rowe Raphael Rowe - one member of the M25 Three

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled two members of the so-called M25 Three gang did not receive a fair trial.

The court unanimously held that the case against Raphael Rowe and Michael Davis violated Article 6 - the right to a fair trial.

Michael Davis Michael Davis has always protested his innocence
The ruling brought immediate calls by Rowe's lawyer for his release from prison.

The two men, along with Randolph Johnson, were jailed for life at the Old Bailey in March 1990 for a series of attacks and robberies around London's orbital motorway on a night in December, 1988.

They were also found guilty of the murder of hairdresser Peter Hurburgh.

He was dragged from his car at gunpoint with his homosexual lover, tied up and beaten.

Armed with a machete

Mr Hurburgh then suffered a fatal heart attack.

The three attackers were wearing balaclavas and were armed with weapons including a machete and a gun.

Peter Hurburgh Hairdresser Peter Hurburgh died of heart attack
Another victim, Timothy Napier, 40, almost died after the three men broke into his father's house and stabbed him during a struggle.

Raphael Rowe, Michael Davis and Randolph Johnson have always protested they were wrongly convicted.

The European Court of Human Rights found that significant evidence was unjustly withheld by the prosecution at the gang's trial.

It also upheld Rowe and Davis's complaint that "gagging orders" had prevented their defence team from seeing crucial documents.

The ruling said the procedure followed at that hearing "was not compatible with the right to a fair trial".

Trial compromised

The European Commission of Human Rights had already ruled in the men's favour.

It said their trial had been "compromised" by the prosecution's use of the Public Interest Immunity certificates.

The case was sent back to the UK Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

I am writing to the CPS inviting them to concede the case
Raphael Rowe's lawyer James Nichol
But in July last year the Court refused to grant bail to the three men.

Rowe's lawyer James Nichol called for that appeal to be conceded by the Crown Prosecution Service so that his client could be set free.

"The CPS is in trouble, there is no doubt," Mr Nichol said. "I am writing to them today inviting them to concede the case."

Rowe's sister Joanne was guarded about celebrating the latest development.

She said she would wait for the outcome of the appeal in the UK courts before celebrating properly.

John Wadham, director of the civil liberties group Liberty, welcomed the Court's decision.

"The Court in Strasbourg has raised substantial questions about the fairness of the secret procedures in the criminal justice system," he said.

"This means that new and fairer procedures will have to be created in criminal trials. Their convictions should be quashed by the Court of Appeal."

The appeal is set for June 12.
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See also:
22 Mar 99 |  UK
New trial hope for M25 Three
08 Apr 99 |  UK
'M25 Three' case goes to appeal
25 Mar 98 |  UK
'M25 murderers innocent' - BBC programme
05 Jul 99 |  UK
'M25 Three' denied bail

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