Gary Critchley - Prisoner of the State May 1981 - March 2012
Has made it to the Gate - But Fights on to Clear his Name
Loneliness is a prisoner,
Locked up in a cell,
As his memories degrade
His hopes and dreams fade
He gets nearer to hell day by day by day by day by day by day . . . . "
Gary a former punk rocker jailed for a crime he insists he did not commit has had his first taste of freedom. At trial he was sentenced to no more than nine years, released after 31 years behind bars, he is 'Out and About' in Birmingham.
Lawyers backing convicted killer Gary Critchley's bid to clear his name are demanding forensic samples from the 1980 murder scene. London-based legal eagles from American company White & Case, one of the biggest law firms in the world, have taken on the 49-year-old's complicated case. They have launched a pro bono investigation into Gary's conviction and are hopeful of securing forensic items, including lead piping and hair and blood samples, from the scene.
It is the first time the international law firm has ever taken on a miscarriage of justice case such as this and lawyer Rory Hishon, 33, is relishing the challenge. He said: "What strikes us about this case is that the evidence used to convict Gary in 1981 was only circumstantial. There are a number of threads in the original prosecution case we believe we can pull at and unravel. Firstly, the victim was hit with a hammer 27 times and was completely drained of blood. Apparently the whole scene was covered in his blood – and yet none of the victim's blood was found on Gary. It was argued at the time that the blood had been washed off Gary because he had spent some time lying in the rain, but simple common sense tells us this needs more investigation. Secondly, we know that other individuals were seen walking into the flat before the murder, but this witness testimony was never heard at the trial.
"We need to find this testimony and find these witnesses. Of course it is not going to be easy, but we feel the forensics may well be the vital clue we need. If they can prove that other people were on the scene that night, apart from Gary, we will be well on the way to taking his case back to the Criminal Cases Review Commission."
Gary was jailed for nine years in 1981 for the murder of Edward McNeill, who was found bludgeoned to death in a London squat the previous year. He has always protested his innocence but was convicted of murder and detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure – the juvenile equivalent of a life sentence, – with a recommendation that he should serve 'no more than nine years'. Gary has since lost multiple appeals and the Criminal Cases Review Commission has refused to re-open his case. But the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation and The Innocence Project UK have taken up the fight to overturn his conviction. The campaign has received a huge boost with the launch of the pro bono investigation by White & Case.
Gary remains determined to clear his name and have his conviction overturned. "It is extremely important to me that this case is investigated thoroughly, I am so glad that a firm as prestigious as White & Case has seen enough in my case to want to bat for me. I have been through enough suffering in my life and it has caused so much pain for my family. If I can just clear my name for good I think that is the greatest gift I could ever give them in return for their help and support."
Adam Aspinall, Sunday Mercury, Mar 11 2012
Imprisoned Birmingham punk rocker Gary Critchley given permission to appeal prison sentence
Murder convict Gary Critchley has taken his first step to freedom after being granted permission to apply for parole.
It is a major breakthrough for the campaign to free the 47-year-old Brummie punk rocker after 30 years behind bars for a crime he claims he did not commit. The decision was taken by a panel of experts at a tribunal hearing last week, and means he could be free by next Christmas.
Last night Carol Coombes, head of the campaign to free him, spoke of her excitement at the news. She said: "This is a fantastic outcome, the best we could have hoped for. "Everybody who is working so hard to free Gary and clear his name is over the moon with this news, but we realise there is still a long way to go. We'd like to thank everyone who has got on board the campaign for their support so far and would encourage them to get as many more people involved as they can."
The appeal to free him has garnered support from the likes of Guildford Four member Gerry Conlon and pop band UB40.
December 12th 2010 by Adam Aspinall, Sunday Mercury (Posted 13/12/100
Justice for Gary Critchley
"England is a supposed model of democracy and justice, yet ironically I have so far been made to serve longer for being rebellious and non-conformist than the Yorkshire Ripper has for 13 serial Killings. Nowadays, painting is the only thing that keeps me alive." Gary Critchley
Campaigners are fighting to clear the name of Gary Critchley, originally sentenced in 1981 with a recommendation that he should serve 'no more than 8-9 years'. Gary has spent, 30 years in prison.
No longer jailed in relation to the original - and very unsafe - conviction. Gary is now detained at Rowan House, in Norfolk, as a result of attempts on his own life, to assess whether he as a personality disorder, and if so, how he will be 'looked after' within the system
Gary has become somewhat of a political prisoner: being punished over and over by a retributive system.
Life, Art and Times of Gary Critchley
Prisoner of the State 1981 - 2010 and counting
Loneliness is a prisoner
Locked up in a cell
As his memories degrade
His hopes and dreams fade
He gets nearer to hell day by day by day by day by day by day ....
Born in the outer ring of Birmingham in 1962, Gary was a well read young man.
Tho always questioning, he wasn't classed as rebellious until discovering politics and punk at the age of 14 years.
He was recruited at that age into the Young Socialist party and excluded from school for leading 'pupil-power' marches and picketing the school. Also aged 14 Gary was sent to juvenile detention centre for criminal damage and theft. During his time there he was physically and mentally abused and he describes this as a very shocking and negative period of his life.
Upon release he quickly deteriorated, abusing various drugs and becoming involved with crime. In 1980, six months after being released from borstal, he went to stay in Campbell Buildings, a notorious London Squat, with a friend, for two weeks.
On the tenth day of that two week visit, Gary was found severely injured on the concrete pavement four floors below the squat.
He had a broken back, ankle and wrist, and was subsequently found to have suffered brain damage from a hammer blow to the front of his skull. Drug traces in his blood showed he had taken large quantities of sleeping pills as well as alcohol, and he was suffering with hypothermia when found.
When police investigated the circumstances, they found a Mr Edward McNeill dead in the squat above where Gary had been found, and the room covered in blood. Most of the blood was Mr McNeill's, who had been bludgeoned with a hammer almost 30 times. Some of it was Gary's. Gary's blood was also found on a car crook lock inside the flat
A bloodstained hammer – described as the murder weapon- was found inside the flat, and was found to have no prints or any other links to Gary. Bloodstained clothing (spare changes, from the squat) bundled up close by Mr McNeill's body included jeans which had traces of both men's blood and a T-shirt with only Gary's blood on it.
Despite the fact that Mr. McNeill's blood had been spattered all over the room, not one speck of his blood was found on either Gary's clothing inside the room or Gary himself, when he was found on the concrete pavement some 50 feet below the squat.
Charged and bailed for Mr McNeill's murder, Gary returned to Birmingham on crutches
In May 1981 (despite numerous forensic discrepancies) he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to be 'detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure', the juvenile equivalent of a life sentence. The then Lord Chief Justice recommended that he should serve 'no more than 8-9 years'. Gary has now served 30 years.
The Road to Hell Gary Critchley 2009
Just some of the many discrepancies include:
1. The prosecutor said that the hammer blow to Gary's own head- which caused him serious frontal lobe damage - must have been made by Gary himself, in a frenzy, as he carried out the savage attack on Mr McNeill. For that to be correct, however, Gary's injury, would have been caused by the claw end of the hammer – but his injury was the same as Mr. McNeill's, consistent with the round end of the hammer.
2. The only forensic evidence linking Gary to the attack was an undone training shoe – two to three sizes too small for him – jammed onto Gary's left foot, when found on the floor beneath the squat. On his other foot was one of his own laced-up boots which witnesses said he had been wearing that day. Footprints "exactly similar" to the print on the sole of the trainer were found in the flat, which the prosecutor argued showed Gary was in the room after McNeill was attacked and probably killed.
There was no blood on the sole of the boot and no boot print in the flat. There was no sign of his other boot. The prosecution's argument was that 'punks wore odd clothes like that' – even if it was far too small for his foot
3. Prosecutors relied on the fact that Gary had told police he did not remember going to the squat with Mr.McNeill, but then in a letter to friends written during his three months in hospital, (with memories recalled through conversations with visitors to him in hospital), he said he must have taken Mr. McNeill home and got drunk, and remembered opening the door and being struck. They said that Gary's claims of amnesia were bogus, despite frontal lobe damage causing gaps in memory.
4. The prosecution also made a feature of 'the fact' that that no-one else would have known how to have latched and unlatched the door of the squat. Contemporary writings and memoirs state that hundreds of people who'd used or visited the squats knew how to do this
5. How could Gary have bludgeoned a man almost 30 times, (to the extent that Mr. McNeill's body, when found, was drained of blood,) and been found with NOT ONE drop of that blood on him, tho he was covered in his own?
Gary had one appeal, in 1982, but it was ruled that there was no new evidence (a requirement of an appeal hearing) with which to question the conviction.
Imprisoned by my number Gary Critchley 2007
Imprisoned by my number – As I've said before it is not just the bricks, bars and locks that imprison me but the cold dehumanising use of a 'prison number' before (sometimes in place of) your name. This barcode like number is more of a barrier between you and freedom/humanity than any architectural feature. My number B39969 become the walls/bricks/bars that contain me – imprisoning my soul.
In the Victorian local prisons, if you were to walk on to a wing after mealtimes, apart from the hum of various radios, etc., you would be forgiven for thinking it was derelict with everything so still. Yet behind every door are people, some alone lost in private nightmares, some stoned without a care in the world, and other being abused, bullied etc by 'cell-mates', and none of it is immediately evident but every now and then a scream will come from this artificial wilderness.
Gary was first released 'on lifer's license' in July 2000, after 20 years imprisonment, during which time he'd developed a full blown heroin addiction. Throughout his incarceration, even when completely at the mercy of drugs, Gary continued to protest his innocence and to ask for the case to be reexamined.
Gary was recalled to prison three months into his release for absconding with his new partner, who'd been thrown out of her rehab unit, where they'd met. He was released three years later, to another drink/ drug rehab centre, being recalled 12 months later for a missed probation appointment. (This missed appointment is the subject of some conjecture: Gary had attended weekly meetings for five months whilst on crutches)
Once back in Prison, Gary weaned himself off his substance addictions, taking only the prescribed and necessary painkillers for the damage caused to his spine and legs in the ejection from Campbell Buildings. Gary was the subject of a parole hearing in 2008, for which all requested professional testimony recommended his release.
Despite this, the parole Board refused the application, saying that 'should Gary relapse into alcohol and substance abuse, he may be a danger to others'
This despite the evidence, testimony and opinion of ALL expert witnesses called, who were able to categorically state that prior to and after the offence for which Gary was imprisoned, there have NEVER been any instances of Gary being violent in any way, despite extreme provocation and attacks upon him.
The only example of violence recorded for Gary in any of his interactions with the care and criminal justice system from before the age of 14 is the unsafe conviction for the murder of Mr McNeill, which has been contested from the beginning, and relentlessly for the subsequent 30 years of Gary's life.
After this 'last door to freedom ' being seen to be permanently closed to Gary, he's suffered from severe reactive depression and made three serious attempts to take his own life. Gary was sent to Rowan House, in Norfolk, in March 2010 as a result of these attempts on his own life, to assess whether he has a personality disorder, and if so, how he will be 'looked after' within the system.
Gary is now a renowned and award winning artist, using art as a form of escape.
On the Run Gary Critchley 2007
A campaign to secure justice for Gary was established in April 2010, when it was discovered that Gary was still within the prison system.
This discovery and campaign has led to support from a number of leading Solicitors and Barristers in the UK; Gerry Conlon and Paddy Joe Hill, MOJO Scotland and UK; media representatives, letters of support from both the current Pope, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and questions being asked in Parliament by MPs from all over the UK.
A leading forensic science unit has offered to test- free- any evidence that the CPS/Police can provide, but apparently, all but the most inconsequential evidence appears to be 'lost'
An investigator has offered - free - to go through the original investigation looking at all the paperwork taken (and not used in court) and identify what a full, thorough and unbiased investigation should look like. The Old Bailey will not agree to release the paperwork, though they have it.
Key questions that the 3,500 plus campaigners (since April 2010) would like to have answered include:
How can the British criminal justice system hold a man for 30 years without having the evidence to either support this imprisonment, or to allow the man to have it reexamined?
Why can't he – or his legal team - have access to the existing paperwork that shows all of the things both used and NOT used in court? (Witness statements, physical evidence from his clothing, the hammer, the strange training shoe that was jammed onto his foot)
Gary has now actually served more than three times the recommended sentence.
He maintains that he never murdered anyone, has never intended to hurt anyone and has never before or indeed since the age of 17 been involved in any violence.
He says he is now semi-institutionalised and a true product of the system. He is now in danger of being pushed into a new part of the system, that of the Mental Health Act, and has been asked to take new medication, despite having weaned himself off all previous drug use. Refusal to do so is seen as non-co-operation, and affects the reports written about his future.
No longer jailed in relation to the original –and vey unsafe- conviction, he has become somewhat of a political prisoner: being punished over and over by a retributive system.
It was recently and regretfully expressed to Gary by a solicitor that 'given the pace of the wheels of the British Justice System, Gary could wait another 15 years or more before this even gets to a stage that would allow this to be reexamined'.
That would take him to 63 years of age. He was locked up at the age of 18.
One of the UK's leading barristers has said that this 'is clearly a matter of grave personal concern and distress but it should also be a matter of grave public concern, that in effect he has been institutionalised by the system. For he was just 18 when he was convicted and the recommended tariff many years past.'
Carol Coombes on behalf of the Campaign
Parole: Gary Critchley, 2007
This painting is representative of the parole system and the depth of feeling that it evokes. Anyone awaiting a parole answer is under a tremendous amount of pressure.
This painting is meant to portray the anxiety and confusion I feel at such times. The way I'm metaphysically torn apart by this All Important Question, when all I want is answers. The fact that my 'head is in bits'. Part of me searches for light at the end of the tunnel, but the way is blocked to me by untold faceless bureaucrats. I dream of the world outside, but my memories have become faded like aged sepia tinted photographs, and it's like part of me doesn't want to see as it's too painful and there is an element of institutionalisation. While another part of me yearns for the wings of freedom. The deep red is significant of the confusion/anger that clouds my mind. I feel like a robot at such times, like I'm in a fugue like state and running on automatic, and everything is inverted. The curtains represent the shroud of despair that envelopes me as a little bit of me dies with each refusal. Gary Critchley, 2007
Parole Board: The whole panel was a total shambles, To begin with they were short of chairs (bearing in mind these panels are supposed to equate with High Court hearings) and so, as each witness came forward to give evidence, they had to bring their chair backwards and forwards with them.
I have, on previous panels, always been called to give evidence and be questioned first - but on this occasion the Judge (a rather grumpy sort who fidgeted that much that I suspect that his stockings and suspenders may have been chafing him a little) decided to reverse the process and leave me until last.
There were supposed to be 6 witnesses – however firstly the bloke from the Ley Community didn't turn up, or send anyone in his place. Secondly, the judge called the two psychologists first ( prison one and an independent one named Dr Pratt – though he's anything but one) and though they were both favourable, the Judge and a Lady Psychiatrist who helped form the panel along with some business mogul bloke, insisted on asking both of them medical questions – which they said they couldn't answer – despite the fact that the Senior Manager of Healthcare sat waiting to give evidence.
However after about an hour during which time the Judge laboriously typed the complete minutes himself on a lap-top we were all told to take a break.Then 10 minutes or so later everyone was summoned back into the room and treated to a long rambling speech from the fidgeting cross-dresser, the gist of which was that he had decided (presumably because of his unanswered medical questions which he asked the wrong witnesses) to adjourn the hearing until February 2009 to allow for a full report from a consultant rheumatologist (despite the fact that I've never had and don't have rheumatism but was diagnosed as having severe osteo-arthritis.
He wanted to know from the consultant whether I was 'allowed' to come off pain-killing drugs, despite the fact that they were already assured that I was coming off them but had been recommended to stay on them until the time came.
But the point was that I had already decided to go without any pain medication, anti-depressants or anything to get this moving, but obviously the Judge feels that's not my decision to make but a 'rheumatologist's' (who's speciality must be osteo-arthritis and depression?)
Clever these judges! Everyone was called back later to say that it was adjourned until 2009 (February) or for 6 months to get a Rheumatologists report on whether I am 'allowed' to come off the pain-killers I am on. What a day! Gary Critchley
CCRC reject Critchley's case? It rejected Gary's argument that new expert evidence should be brought to show the prosecution pathologist's assertion that rain washed off McNeill's blood from his clothes was scientifically incorrect. The commission stated that even if that were true, it was possible that having murdered McNeill he changed his clothes before leaving the flat! However, that contradicts the commission's earlier statement that he was wearing the same clothes he had all day, which would mean this drunk and drugged-up teenager, himself with a serious head wound, would have to change clothes before carrying out a murder and then change back again.
A Bleeding Scandal - article from 'Private Eye' 24 July 2009
Few miscarriages of justice appear to be as blatant as the case of Gary Critchley, who was 17 when he was convicted of a fatal hammer attack on a man called Edward McNeill in a London squat.
Critchley is now 46 and, 28 years down the line, still resident in the hospital wing at HMP Gartree. How a jury ever found him guilty, how the appeal court upheld his conviction and how the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) can now refuse to send his case back for further consideration is extraordinary.
His solicitor, Glyn Maddocks, is so outraged and exasperated at the criminal justice system's refusal to correct what he says is "obviously a terrible mistake" he is appealing for anyone - witnesses, police, prosecutors, forensic scientists - to come forward. DNA samples would probably answer many of the questions; but police and prosecutors have told the CCRC they cannot trace the many items of forensic evidence from the case that should have been retained.
In the early hours of Saturday 28 June 1980, Critchley, a young punk rocker who had only been in London for two weeks, was found lying seriously injured on a pavement below his squat. He had a broken back, ankle and wrist, and was subsequently found to have suffered brain damage from a hammer blow to the front of his skull. He was able to tell the man who found him that he thought he had been there for some time but could give no account of how he had come by his injuries, and he had no idea whether he fell, was pushed or had jumped from above. Drug traces in his blood showed he had taken large quantities of sleeping pills as well as alcohol.
When the hospital called police to investigate, they found Mr McNeill dead in the squat above and the room covered in blood - most of it that of McNeill, who had been hit with a hammer 27 times, but some of it Critchley's.
Two squatters from the same block initially told police that about two to three hours after they had seen Critchley and McNeill enter the flat, a yellow car had arrived carrying three men, and that one had kept watch while two went up to the flat. But in later statements the squatters changed their accounts about how long the men stayed and even about whether their arrival was on the same night. Police
maintained they were unable to trace the men and inferred that they did not exist.
Inside the flat a bloodstained hammer was found, but with no prints to link it to Critchley. Critchley's blood was also found on a car "crook lock", suggesting he may also have been struck by that. Bloodstained clothing near the body included jeans which had traces of both men's blood and a T-shirt with Critchley's blood only. Despite the face that McNeill's blood had been spattered all over the room, not one speck of his blood was found on Critchley's clothing. A prosecution pathologist speculated that this may have been because Critchley had been lying injured in the rain for a considerable time - failing to explain how the rain must have washed off McNeill's blood but not Critchley's own. The defence pathologist said this was nonsense and "the attacker or attackers would have been not just specked but drenched in the victim's blood."
The only forensic evidence linking Critchley to the attack was an undone training shoe - two to three sizes too small for him - which Critchley was found to be wearing on his left foot. On his other was one of the laced-up boots which witnesses said he had been wearing that day. Footprints" exactly similar" to the print on the sole of the trainer were found in the flat, which the prosecutor argued showed Critchley was in the room after McNeill was attacked and probably killed.
But if Critchley was wearing one boot and one trainer as alleged, why was there no blood on the sole of the boot and no boot print in the flat? What happened to his other boot? It was not found in the flat. The prosecution's argument was that punks wore clothes like that - even if it was far too small for his foot. As for the hammer blow to Critchley's own head, the prosecution claimed he must have struck himself as he launched his frenzied attack on McNeill. For that to be correct, however, Critchley's injury, which caused him serious frontal lobe damage, would have been caused by the claw end of the hammer - but his injury was the same as McNeill's, consistent with the round end of the hammer.
Prosecutors had relied on the fact that Critchley had told police he did not remember going home with McNeill, but then in a letter to friends written during his three months in hospital, he said he had taken him home and got drunk, and remembered opening the door and being struck. They said that Critchley's claims of amnesia were bogus.
Despite the anomalies, the jury convicted Critchley. A year later, the court of appeal disposed of the case equally swiftly. But this was before a series of high-profile miscarriage cases shook the justice system, revealing how a mixture of cock-up, conspiracy, dodgy police and" expert" evidence can leave people rotting in jail for crimes they did not commit.
So how has the CCRC now come to reject Critchley's case? It rejected his argument that new expert evidence should be brought to show the prosecution pathologist's assertion that rain washed off McNeill's blood from his clothes was scientifically incorrect. The commission stated that even if that were true, it was possible that having murdered McNeill he changed his clothes before leaving the flat!
However, that contradicts the commission's earlier statement that he was wearing the same clothes he had all day, which would mean this drunk and drugged-up teenager, himself with a serious head wound, would have to change clothes before carrying out a murder and then change back again - and in any event the other T -shirt found had only Critchley's blood on it. It is, according to Maddocks, "utter nonsense".
It also rejected his arguments surrounding the training shoe, saying it was known at trial that the shoes did not fit Critchley and that he had not been wearing it earlier in the day, so this was not new evidence to form the basis of an appeal: The commission had tried and failed to locate any exhibits in the case.
As for the hammer injury to Critchley's head, his defence team at trial had not called evidence to show that it was caused by the round end of the hammer, thus undermining the prosecution claim that he hit himself in the frenzy. So this was new evidence. But the commission rejected this, saying there was "no reasonable explanation" for the defence not arguing it at the time.
The commission also rejected a series of submissions relating to the changed evidence of one of his fellow squatters. Lawyers for Critchley had argued that criminal charges against one of them had been dropped on the direction of a senior police officer, on the very day he changed his statement to say he may have made a mistake over the day on which he saw men enter the flat and that in any event they had come straight down. At trial the squatter reverted to his original claim.
Solicitor Glyn Maddocks' appeal to try to get the matter reopened is unprecedented. He has no doubt that whoever was in the flat that night attacked both McNeill and Critchley and then made a bodged attempt at framing the unconscious Critchley by swapping shoes with him.
"The commission has totally ignored the utter absurdity of the prosecution case, that Critchley, having committed this horrible crime, risked killing himself by leaping from a high window to escape, rather than just running down the stairwell," Maddocks says. "This case is a scandalous stain on our justice system. Others in prison at the time had big political campaigns to force the courts to re¬examine the evidence against them. Critchley had no one - and he is still rotting in jail."
Article reproduced by kind permission of Private Eye magazine