Miscarriages of JusticeUK

Justice for Stephen Marsh

Stephen Marsh was having an affair with a work colleague, Rebecca Harris, for about eight months. Stephen regarded it as being just for fun and not to be taken seriously and told her so. He finished with her a few times as she was very possessive and wanted to be with him all the time.

Rebecca bought him a season ticket for Swansea Football Club to win him back. She wanted him to leave his wife Jaspal Marsh and marry her. Stephen refused. Rebecca was married to a man forty years older than she was and they had a small child and she was unhappy in that marriage and were going to get divorced. Her work colleagues state that she was more serious about the affair than Stephen was.

On the night that the crime occurred 29th July, 2006, Rebecca Harris drove from Swansea to Gorseinon and entered Stephen's house and stabbed Jaspal in the bedroom over 16 times with a knife from the kitchen, wounds which proved fatal. Stephen was staying in a friend's house in Swansea, some seven miles away (this is not contested). He was not physically involved at all.

At trial, Harris claimed that Stephen had planned the murder and had encouraged her to commit the crime by text messages. Stephen denies this. No text messages of any sort were recovered from her mobile phone. One-sided text messages were found on Stephen's mobile phone, but he had no idea what they meant, partially because they were vague and also because he had been drinking (Stephen was a heavy drinker).

Harris pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 12 years. Stephen pleaded not guilty, but was convicted of murder by joint enterprise and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 18 years.

Stephen appealed in December 2009, Michael Birnbaum QC, represented Marsh, who had thoroughly "explored every possible aspect of the case", leaving no stone unturned in putting forward 10 grounds of appeal. However the three High Court judges were not persuaded and upheld the verdict.

There were and are a number of questions which give rise to concern in this case, which were not mentioned at the original trial or at the appeal.

Harris was seen in her car on CCTV in Swansea at 11.58 p.m. She stated that she was on the housing estate in Gorseinon at 12.06 a.m., some seven miles away. Bearing in mind the number of traffic lights, speed cameras and roundabouts, this is highly improbable. Prior to her driving from Swansea, Stephen did not text her at all but she texted him four times. Clearly, Stephen was not encouraging her. She claimed that the murder took place between 12.30 a.m and 12.37 a.m. when she sent separate text messages.

Again, this is improbable, as she claimed that the first message was sent outside the bedroom door and the second after she had left the house, after searching for her car keys which she had dropped outside the house in the darkness. She claims that, when she walked up the stairs in the house, she was carrying her mobile phone in one hand and the knife in the other.

Why carry a mobile phone? She claims that, when she drove home from Gorseinon to Morriston, no text messages were sent or received. But there is no gap long enough in the sequence of text messages to cover this length of time.

A retired Home Office pathologist has estimated that it is highly unlikely that the murder took place before 2.30 a.m. There are many inconsistencies and lies in her statements. The time of death is important because, if it can be proved that it took place after the time she claimed, then those vague text messages she sent could be fantasies.

The jury were not driven to the scene of the murder, which would have cast doubt on the claimed timings. Only one charge was put before the jury, namely murder.

There should have been an alternative charge of conspiracy. In R.v. Coutts [2006] 1 WLR 2154, the House of Lords expressed concern that, if no alternative charge is offered, the jury has a stark choice of finding the defendant guilty of murder or to acquit him and letting him get away scot-free. There is no other choice. The appeal was allowed. Similarly, the appeal was allowed in R.v. Ben Caven [2011] EWCA Crim 3239.

Although Stephen denies any involvement in the murder, he believes that, if the charge of conspiracy had been left to the jury, they then would have had a choice of verdicts and he might have had a far lesser sentence, albeit for something that he was not involved in.

Stephen Marsh
A 3090 AM
HMP Swaleside
Brabazon Road
ME12 4AX