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Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Prosecutors apologise for blunder
Court room
Prosecutors have admitted a 'terrible' legal slip-up
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has apologised unreservedly for missing the deadline to appeal against a quashed murder conviction.

Michael Weir, from Hackney, east London, was jailed for life last year for murdering 79-year-old war veteran Leonard Harris, after he was linked to the crime by a DNA sample he provided in 1997.

But the Court of Appeal overturned his conviction in May this year, ruling the DNA evidence inadmissible as it was gathered in connection with unrelated offences.

The CPS planned to lodge an appeal with the House of Lords - but missed the deadline for lodging the papers by one day.


The appeal could not go ahead - there is not any leeway in the legislation

Chris Newell
CPS spokesman

Frank Harris, the son of the murdered man, said it was "unbelievable" that such a serious crime had "not been pursued by the CPS".

"It was very kind of them [the CPS] to let the police and subsequently myself know at the end of July, when the appeal should have been lodged at the beginning of June."

Chris Newell, CPS director of case work, said he could understand the feelings of betrayal.

"I should like to apologise first to Mr Harris, his family and to the public generally for this terrible mistake," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I do realise how distressing this must be. The CPS deeply regrets that we did miscalculate by one day the time for lodging the appeal papers in the House of Lords.

"Therefore the appeal could not go ahead. There is not any leeway in the legislation."

Inquiry ordered

Mr Newell said it was necessary to find out "exactly how the miscalculation occurred and to check our systems and ensure there is no repetition".

He said: "At the moment I cannot say quite how the miscalculation occurred but I do accept responsibility on behalf of the CPS.

"There are a number of ways in which the mistake could have been made. There are many time limits in which different stages in the criminal justice system have to be completed."

He added that a "speedy" inquiry was under way to establish exactly when the mistake was made.

But Mr Harris said an inquiry was "not good enough".

"They know exactly who the culprit was and that culprit, if he was a member of the CPS, should be moved from office."

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