Miscarriages of JusticeUK

James Dowsett - still remains in prison, 8 years after ECtHR ruled his right to a fair trial had been violated

by Charles Hanson  (Posted 23rd October 2011

James Dowsett was convicted at Norwich Crown Court in March 1989 and sentenced to life imprisonment with a tariff of 25 years later reduced to 21 years for the killing of his business partner Christopher Nugent.

Two other men, Stephen Gray and Gary Nugent later pleaded guilty to the murder with Gray giving evidence for the prosecution which implicated Jim Dowsett.

Because of serious irregularities at Jim's trial and the failure of the prosecution to disclose important evidence which showed that there had been deals between Gray and the police to implicate Jim which only came to light some 8 years after Jim's conviction, he went on to launch a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights.

In June 2003 that court decided that Jim's right to a fair trial had been violated Dowsett v UK: Application No. 39482/98) that there was a clear breach of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

However, the ECHR does not have the powers to order either the quashing of the conviction or a retrial and because an earlier appeal had failed it was the function of the CCRC to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal.

The CCRC in spite of the ECHR's judgement refused to refer the case back basing its decisions amongst other things that they are not interested in whether there had been a breach of Article 6 but whether there was any real prospect of the Court of Appeal rendering the conviction as being unsafe and quashing the conviction.

Throughout his time in prison, Jim now aged 65 has been beset by illness including being diagnosed as diabetic and later having a large tumour removed from his pancreas which resulted in some three quarters of the pancreas was removed. He now lives mainly on liquid foods.

He has now served almost 23 years in prison.

In 2010, Jim's lawyers launched a claim against the Prison Service and the NHS Trust which holds the healthcare contract at Highpoint prison citing medical negligence and delays in getting Jim the medical†treatment†he so desperately needed in the early stages of his illness which might have prevented him having to have the major surgery to his pancreas.

That claim is outstanding.

During the course of his illness and later after surgery, Jim attended various appointments at the outside hospital and in spite of him being low risk and having had two escorted town visits where he was allowed to wander around Cambridge with one prison officer, at each hospital appointment he was always handcuffed. Moreover, during examinations by doctors at the hospital where he remained handcuffed, female prison officers were sometimes in attendance even during the more intimate examinations.

Jim's lawyers launched another claim under the Human Rights Act and in September 2011, the Ministry of Justice agreed to settle out of court. Jim was awarded £5,500.

Clearly, the handcuffing of prisoners during medical treatment and examinations has to be†weighed†proportionally†to risk and the†presence†of female officers where a male prisoner is to be examined seems on the face of it to be†discriminatory†for male officers would not be permitted to be present if the prisoner being examined was a female.

In September 2011, Jim was finally transferred to open condition at HMP Kirkham and although now almost 2 years over tariff it is hoped that he can now finally look forward to release in the not too distant future when he will have the opportunity of continuing his fight based on what the European Court of Human Rights declared in 2003; that his right to a fair trial in March 1989 had been violated.

Charles Hanson <>

Letters of Support/Solidarity to:
James Dowsett
HMP Kirkham
Freckleton road

Update on James Dowsett ( Wednesday 1st December 2010)

When I attended the recent PAS AGM one of the guest speakers was Hugh Southey a barrrister with Tooks Chambers. He explained about how he was committed to prisoner and human rights issues and was dealing with a case where a seriously ill man was chained to a hospital bed and denied the right to wear his own pyjamas etc thereby discriminating against him and treating him differently than other ill people in the ward.

I thought 'hello I recognise this as being Jim Dowsett'. I later spoke to Hugh and he confirmed it to be so but was unable to discuss with me the features of his claim (legal privilege) although I have Jim's consent to liaise with his solicitors.

Being chained to his bed even in spite of having 2 escorted town visits in the previous few months that went OK seems to be over the top. He's not A cat.

Moreover, there's the separate claim in relation to his treatment and the argument that his cancer which luckily for him to out to be benign but still caused to him have three quarters of his pancreas removed along with the tumor and should have been detected much earlier had the prison not cancelled hospital appointments and on another occasion didn't tell Jim not to eat or drink after midnight which caused the surgical team to cancel surgery.

It was utter an pure negligence.

He lives on a mountain of pills and special foods to keep him alive given that he has little pancreas.

Another claim but entirely separate is a claim against the prison service for sexual discrimination and the same barrister has been instructed by solicitors to deal with this.

It centres on Jim's objection to being rubbed down and searched by female officers when male officers are not allowed to do the same with female prisoners.

I came across the case of a Carole Saunders a female officer who succeeded in a claim against the prison service in 2006 and sent a copy of the press report to Jim about three months ago when he complained of female officers being present at the hospital when he was discussing his case with consultants. Some of the details included intimate questions.

It was bad enough to have male screws listening in but he went ballistic when a female officer refused to leave the room. He was also searched by a female officer on his return to prison.

There is also the issue of certain religious faith groups where male persons would find it offensive to be touched by a woman other than the man's own wife or indeed mother.

I recall an incident at Dorchester prison some years ago when a female officer was rubbing down a male prisoner in front of the guy's wife in the visits area and the wife didn't like it at all and screaming at the woman screw the wife said, 'only I am allowed to touch him like that' and then punched her right between the eyes. Needless to say the police were called and the wife was taken away.

Jim is arguing that if its OK to have female officers having a choice on rub down searches so should male prisoners given that male screws cannot rub down female prisoners plus his other arguments about having to reveal personal and intimate medical details in front of them.

It appears that this is a case that is very live and up and running and the case of Carole Saunders is being used to the full by Jim's lawyers.

The prison service would be in chaos if female officers had this part of their duties restricted for staffing levels would be affected.

Jim is up for his oral parole hearing on 4 January so hopefully he will get his D cat after 22 years.

He has given me carte blanche to act for him and for me to be the judge of what should be revealed to the media etc. etc.

"Charles Hanson" <>

James Dowsett 0000
HMP Highpoint

James Dowsett v. CCRC [2007]

Statement of witness Gary Runham
( C J Act 1967 Section 9, M C Act 1980 Section 102, M C Rules 1981 Rule70)

Killer 'denied fair appeal' awarded [pounds sterling]12,000

The Case of James Dowsett

James Dowsett was convicted in March 1989 at the Norwich Crown Court of the murder of his business partner, Christopher Nugent.

The two men ran a financial services company under the name 'Walkers' which had premises in a number of locations in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

On the 15 December 1987, Mr Nugent's body was found at the Walkers' offices in Mildenhall, Suffolk with two shotgun wounds to his head.

The prosecution case was that Mr Nugent had been the victim of a contract killing with James Dowsett and two business associates, James Payn and Roger Lewis having paid a Stephen Gray and a Gary Runham to carry out the killing.

The Crown argued that Stephen Gray carried out the shooting with Gary Runham driving the getaway car. At trial, both Gray and Runham pleaded guilty to the murder of Christopher Nugent.

However, Gray gave evidence for the prosecution implicating James Dowsett and a number of other people in a conspiracy to murder Mr Nugent. Runham did not give evidence.

The prosecution presented no clear and unambiguous motive for the killing although they did present evidence that James Dowsett had become very dissatisfied with Mr Nugent's performance at work.

There was also evidence that Mr Nugent's life had been insured more than once for substantial sums shortly before his death.

The prosecution also alleged that James Payn a consultant at the Walkers, Lakenheath, Suffolk office had provided the bulk of the money to arrange the murder. Roger Lewis, an insurance agent from King's Lynn was alleged to have made further payments to Stephen Gray on behalf of James Dowsett after Gray had demanded more money following the murder. A fifth man named Higgins was charged with supplying the gun to kill Nugent.

At the end of the prosecution case the trial judge discharged Higgins after finding that there was no case to answer. James Pyn and Roger Lewis were both acquitted by the jury.
James Dowsett was convicted after nearly eight hours of deliberation.

Some twenty years later and in spite of a judgment at the European Court of Human Rights in June 2003 Dowsett v UK: Application No. 39482/98 in which the Court declared that James Dowsett's right to a fair trial had been violated and was thus a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

He remains in Category C conditions (HMP Highpoint) and has been refused parole or a move to open conditions.

The reasons which the Prison Service have given to Mr Dowsett is his stance that he is innocent of the murder and his refusal to participate in offence related coursework.

Escorted town visits which are part of the process for risk assessing one's suitability for progressive transfers, in this instance to open conditions or Category D status have also been stopped for the same reasons.

The European Court of Human Rights are currently looking at a fresh application alleging further breaches of James Dowsett's human rights.

The Council of Ministers are also looking into the failure of the British Government to execute the Court's judgement of June 2003 which should have meant Mr Dowsett's case being sent to the Court of Appeal and the quashing of the conviction for murder.

Mr Dowsett's case at the ECtHR centered on material which had the capacity of assisting Mr Dowsett's defence at trial being withheld from him by the prosecution.

The Court held that material evidence relevant to the defence had to be placed before the trial judge for a ruling on disclosure at the time when it could most effectively protect the right of the defence.

Mr Dowsett's case at the EctHR was that withheld material showed that the main prosecution witness Stephen Gray had been 'doing deals' for various favours which included being given a recommended tariff at the trial which in the event was 11 years which had been agreed by Suffolk police even before Gray had made his statement and before giving evidence at Court. Mr Dowsett provided to the Court written evidence of these factors which included a copy of a letter between the Suffolk Police and Gray's solicitors which clearly showed the transactions between the police and Gray.

The ECtHR also noted that there was still much material that the prosecution had failed to disclose without having ever placed it before a judge to decide whether it should disclosed to the defence, including a 'Reward File' showing payments of monies to various witnesses some of whom were associates of Stephen Gray, thereby severely undermining the reliability of their evidence at the trial.  

Other evidence withheld were documents and other paperwork proving that Mr Nugent was fully aware of the insurance policies in place and other evidence which showed that the family of Mr Nugent would be the main beneficiaries and with a share of the business if it should be sold.

How could Mr Dowsett be aware of the intentions of Mr Nugent's family following his death in what they wanted to do with his share of the business, whether they might want to retain their share or sell it to Mr Dowsett, the latter which would have resulted in Mr Dowsett having to take on a huge amount of debt to satisfy those demands.

Other material evidence which was withheld was that seized from the office of 'Walkers' and that removed from Mr Nugent's home.

Mr Dowsett became aware of this some years after his conviction via a receipt made out by a Detective Superintendent Abrahams (the officer in charge of the investigation) and signed by Mr Nugent's widow.

The police state that none of this was recorded, copies or entered on the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (HOLMES) computer, that they have no idea what was contained on it or what Mrs Nugent did with this material. 

This of course breaches the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), in that all material must be copied, recorded and entered on to the HOLMES computer system if the system is being used in the investigation of a crime.

There is also a great deal of other evidence which remains undisclosed and what surprises this holds is anyone's guess.

However, the Criminal Review Cases Commission (CCRC) in reviewing the ECtHR decision as a formality to refer Mr Dowsett's case back to the Court of Appeal only ever released to Mr Dowsett what he already had.

In the event, the CCRC refused to refer Mr Dowsett's case back to the Court of Appeal. Mr Dowsett then applied for a judicial review of that decision. The latter court held that the CCRC were fully entitled to take the view that they did not to refer the case to the Court of Appeal because of the way the law stood.

Of course, the European Court of Human Rights does not recognise the CCRC as being a judicial body and the fact that the commissioner of the CCRC and others are political appointee removes it even further from the judicial field.

Currently, Mr Dowsett remains in ill-health following surgery to remove a tumour from his pancreas which resulted in the removal of a large part of that organ.

He is also diabetic and at the age of 64 his medical condition means he is constantly monitored.

His ill health precludes him from participating in many of the activities of prison life and none more so than in the area of offending behaviour work or even on a one-to-one basis should he so elect to undertake any.

This greatly reduces his prospects of parole or moving on to open conditions because of his disabilities.

His next parole hearing is set for July 2010.

Both Stephen Gray and Gary Runham the co accused who were sentenced to life imprisonment have since been released on licence, this despite Gray's record of having serious breaches of trust in prison and also violence and abuse recorded against him during the course of his imprisonment.

It pays, its seems, to be helpful to the state especially if one tells them what they want to hear.

Story compiled by Charles Hanson
Saturday 3rd March 2010

Source for this page:
Charles Hanson

Letters of Support/Solidatiry to:

James Dowsett
HMP Highpoint

Last updated 23 October, 2011