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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 15:35 GMT
'Corrupt police behind false conviction'
Robert Brown
Robert Brown was behind bars for 25 years
The Court of Appeal has been told police corruption was behind the unsafe conviction of a man who was jailed for 25 years for murder.

On Wednesday Court of Criminal Appeal judges brought one of the UK's longest running miscarriages of justice to an end after being told of the corruption involved.

Scotsman Robert Brown, now aged 45, was jailed for life in October 1977, after being convicted of the murder of 51-year-old spinster Annie Walsh in her Manchester flat.

Mr Brown always denied his was guilt and on Wednesday he had his conviction overturned Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Mr Justice Gibbs and Mr Justice Davis.

Annie Walsh
Annie Walsh was battered to death

Benedict Emmerson QC, acting for Mr Brown, told the appeal judges a confession had been obtained by "violence and threats of violence" and he was the victim of "subsequently concocted accounts".

Earlier, Mr Emerson told the court: "The prosecution case against the appellant at trial essentially depended on the truth and reliability of a series of disputed confession statements the appellant was alleged to have made to the police.

"Each of these confessions was said to have been contemporaneously recorded.

"The appellant's case is, and always has been, that the only document ever recorded in his presence was a written confession statement.

'Concocted accounts'

"He gave evidence at trial that this statement was the product of the officers deliberately putting words into his mouth - that none of the information contained in the statement came from him and that none of it was true.

"He said that he was intimidated into signing the statement by threats of violence and a number of actual physical assaults; and that the other confession statements which the officers claimed were contemporaneously recorded were nothing of the sort.

"They were subsequently concocted accounts based on the single confession statement that he had been intimidated into signing."

Robert Brown
Robert Brown was jailed when he was just 19

Mr Emerson also told the judges: "The axis of credibility between the appellant on the one hand and the police officers on the other, thus lay at the very heart of this case."

Three principal grounds for the appeal were advanced on Mr Brown's behalf.

Two related directly to the reliability of the confession evidence.

The third related indirectly to that issue and concerned the failure of the Crown to disclose evidence of a positive match between a fibre found on the coat of the deceased and a jumper seized from a different suspect, Robert Hill.

Counsel said fresh evidence concerned the integrity of one of the central officers in the case, Detective Chief Inspector Jack Butler.

'Culture of corruption'

He told the judges: "Unknown either to the trial judge or to the jury, Mr Butler was deeply corrupt."

Mr Emerson added: "Not only had he been involved in serious corruption himself, but he had presided over a conspiracy of corrupt police officers under his direct control at Platt Lane police station (Manchester) between 1973 and 1979.

"The evidence strongly suggests that these officers had engaged in a pattern of corruption amounting to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice over a period of years, which both pre-dated and post-dated the appellant's arrest."

Robert Brown's mother
Robert Brown's mother is said to be very ill

In March 1983 DCI Butler was jailed for four years after being convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice and accepting bribes.

Mr Emerson said: "We submit that if the jury had known not only of the fact, but of the level of Butler's corruption, it could hardly fail to have influenced their verdict."

Lord Justice Rose, in his ruling, said it was apparent from a report, the contents of which were disclosed last week, that there was a "culture of corruption" at Platts Lane between 1973 and 1979 over which Butler "had presided in a senior role".

Mr Emerson said the second principal ground arose from expert linguistic analysis of the confession statement and there was now evidence before the court to the effect that it was more likely than not that the account given by officers in evidence was untrue.

See also:

13 Nov 02 | Scotland
30 Jul 02 | Scotland
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