On 8th December 2003, Gary Walker was arrested for the murder of his then partner. He remained in custody until his acquittal was ordered by the Court of Appeal some 18 years later on 17th December 2021.
The case has an extraordinary history and it has taken an inordinate time to secure the exoneration of Mr Walker following his initial conviction in October 2004. This firm was not involved in the original trial and were instructed to make an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, his original appeal having failed in 2007. It was clear from the outset of our involvement that there was something very troubling with this conviction.
An application was submitted to the CCRC by Steven Bird and David Emanuel QC (not then a QC) of Garden Court chambers in 2014. After a 3-year review, the CCRC refused to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal. An application was lodged to judicially review the CCRC’s decision which was refused on the papers by the Single Judge. Permission was granted after an oral hearing in 2018.
Rather than contest the matter in the High Court, the CCRC agreed to reconsider the application. After a further 2-year review, the CCRC finally agreed to refer the case to the Court of Appeal in April 2020.
The appeal was rigorously contested but the conviction for murder was quashed in January 2021, with the Court deciding that fresh expert evidence placed the original medical evidence in a whole new light. It was also held that the directions on supervening acts and causation were deficient. The Court ordered a retrial which took place at Warwick Crown Court in November and December 2021. Steven Bird instructed Tom Wainwright to act as junior counsel to David Emanuel QC.
On the night of the incident, Mr Walker had placed the deceased in the recovery position and called 999 as he was concerned about her state of intoxication and the fact that she may have had a head injury. The attending paramedic assessed the deceased as intoxicated but rousable at that time albeit with a reduced state of consciousness. He placed her on her back and with a pillow under her head.
Mr Walker called 999 again a few hours later and the second paramedic did not move the deceased from that position. About an hour later she went into cardiac arrest and subsequently died.
The case turned on extremely complex medical and scientific evidence relating to the cause of death, complicated by the negligent actions of the attending paramedics. Ultimately, it was agreed by all experts that the cause of death was hypoxic ischaemic injury to the brain as a result of a cardiac arrest caused by positional asphyxiation as a result of the position that the first paramedic had placed her in. The key question was what had caused her state of reduced consciousness at the time of the first paramedic attending and whether the jury could rule out intoxication alone as the cause of her state of consciousness.
At the end of the prosecution’s case, a submission of no case to answer was made on the basis the prosecution could not prove causation from any injuries allegedly caused by Mr Walker (which had been denied). The trial judge, Holgate J, describing the case as highly unusual, agreed and allowed the submission.
The prosecution appealed the decision as a terminating ruling and on the 17th December 2021, the case retuned to the Court of Appeal for the third time. The prosecution’s appeal was dismissed (Macur LJ presiding) and after 18 years, in which he had been custody the whole time, the Court ordered his acquittal and Gary Walker was finally released, his name cleared.
This was a study in perseverance and determination to have this matter properly considered by the courts. We are grateful for the extremely hard work and dedication of David Emanuel QC and Tom Wainwright both of Garden Court chambers who were instructed by Steven Bird. We are also indebted to the experts instructed in this case, Professor Charles Deakin (pre-hospital medicine), Professor Brian Herron (neuropathology), Dr Ashley Fegan-Earl (pathology) and Gavin Trotter (toxicology).