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

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.

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 <charles.hanson@live.co.uk>

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