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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Barry George: an unsafe conviction?

I have watched with great interest the growing body of evidence that says Barry George did NOT kill Jill Dando. I hope that tomorrow's Appeal Court judgment will be conclusive in dealing with the matter once and for all. The judges could free him, order a re-trial or confirm that the conviction was safe.

It does seem that there is huge doubt about the safety of George's conviction, particularly now the speck of forensic evidence, a particle from the gun shot, is not deemed reliable. Add this to the fact that all the witnesses claim the man they saw had long hair (Barry George always had short hair) and the overwhelming fact that he is not mentally equipped to pull off such a deft, clever killing, and you start to question the conviction.

Miscarriages of justice make me very uncomfortable, particularly so when the person incarcerated has lower than average intelligence. The worry is that in high profile murder cases the need to get a conviction might lead to a vulnerable person, unable to understand the implications of what is happening, being wrongly convicted.

Sadly, we have seen this happen all too often. Stefan Kiszko was wrongly imprisoned for 16 years for the murder of Lesley Molseed in 1975. He died aged 44 just a year after being released, and his mother, who had tirelessly campaigned for his freedom, died six months later. Derek Bentley, hanged on 28 January 1953, was granted a posthumous pardon in July 1998.

I knew Jill Dando: we worked together in BBC local radio and she came to my first wedding. She had a strong sense of justice and I know that she would want the truth to come out, even if it means freeing Barry George with the knowledge that her killer is still out there.

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