On 15th May 2020, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (“CCRC”) referred the murder conviction of Gary Walker to the Court of Appeal having considered there to be a real possibility that the conviction was unsafe.
It has been a very long road so far for Mr Walker who was convicted in October 2004 at Stafford Crown Court for the murder of his partner. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 12 years and 26 days. He is still serving that sentence and continues to maintain his innocence of the crime for which he was convicted.
This firm, instructing David Emanuel QC of Garden Court Chambers (not a QC at the time of instruction), made a very detailed submission to the CCRC in October 2014. Three years later, in September 2017, the CCRC refused to refer the conviction to the Court of Appeal. We challenged the CCRC’s decision by way of Judicial Review and permission was granted at an oral hearing in May 2018, having been refused initially by the Single Judge. After considering the Court’s detailed permission judgment, the CCRC decided to withdraw its September 2017 decision and look again at Mr Walker’s case. That further review concluded with the referral on 15th May 2020.
This is a complex case in which new evidence casts doubt on the cause of death. It was alleged at trial that Mr Walker had attacked his partner at their home in the early hours of 8 December 2003 by way of punching her and attempting to strangle her. She died as a result of swelling of the brain which may have been caused by trauma to the head or to deprivation of oxygen to the brain.
At trial Mr Walker maintained that the head injury must have been caused by a fall earlier that night, when he was not with her. There had been a violent incident at their home during which he claimed to have been attacked with a potato peeler, and he had therefore acted in self-defence.
At trial heard expert evidence as to the cause of death effectively ruled out injury by way of a fall. Mr Walker had put his partner (who had been drinking heavily) into the recovery position and called an ambulance as he was concerned about her. The attending paramedic had then, inappropriately, rolled her onto her back and left her in that position.
New evidence suggests that head injury caused by a fall cannot be ruled out. The CCRC has concluded that there is a real possibility that the jury at Mr Walker’s trial may have returned a not guilty verdict if the expert evidence as now obtained had been presented to them in a fair and balanced way.
The CCRC also agrees that the trial judge’s direction on causation failed to draw the jury’s attention to the implications of the evidence that Mr Walker had placed his partner in the recovery position only for the paramedic to remove her from that safe position and move her into a dangerous position on her back.
The case will now be heard by the Court of Appeal in due course.
The CCRC press release can be found here.