Miscarriages of JusticeUK (MOJUK)


Oliver Keith Campbell

Press Release: Oliver Campbell's 32-year fight for justice to be heard at Court of Appeal

Executive Summary

  1. The purpose of this note is to inform the Press about the facts of this unique and very complex case. What follows is only a summary of a very long history.

  2. Oliver, a mentally challenged black youth, was convicted in 1991 of murder by shooting and conspiracy to rob. We have been working on his case for nearly 25 years because we, his two Kings Counsel – and many others, including BBC journalists – believe that he is innocent.

  3. The evidence against Oliver was that the shooter had worn his distinctive “British Knights” cap; a deeply flawed identification and a series of admissions made in the absence of a solicitor which were largely inconsistent with the known facts and / or ridiculous. The conduct of the Met officers who interviewed him was incompetent and / or dishonest and manipulative.

  4. The jury never heard that, shortly after they were both charged, Oliver’s codefendant Eric Samuel had exonerated him to police and had named another man as the gunman. We now know that Eric repeated that exoneration to at least five different people over many years. Hairs found inside the cap pointed to Oliver’s innocence, because they were neither his nor Eric’s.

  5. An appeal in 1995 failed. As in the recent case of Andrew Malkinson, the CCRC first refused to refer the case to the Court of Appeal (in 2005) but then decided to do so (in 2022). We accept that in this case the CCRC investigated very thoroughly. But we believe they made a serious mistake in 2005 when they refused to send the case back to the Court of Appeal.

  6. The first hearing will be on 11 October.

    The Case in more Detail

  7. At about 22.30 on Sunday 22 July 1990 two young black men attempted to rob the G and H Supermarket at 155, Lower Clapton Rd, Hackney in East London. The proprietor, Baldev Hoondle, was shot dead. They ran away

and the gunman dropped the cap in the street a few hundred yards from the shop. The police charged two men Oliver and Eric. Oliver was said to be the gunman.

  1. On 10 December 1991 at the Old Bailey Oliver was convicted of murder and conspiracy to rob. Eric was acquitted of murder but had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob with Oliver. The Court of Appeal (CA) dismissed his appeal in 1995.

  2. Oliver was nearly 20 at the time of the killing. He suffered severe brain damage as a baby. His intelligence is borderline defective with an impaired capacity to process or remember more than the simplest verbal information, severely restricted reasoning skills and poor concentration and memory. He was a friend of Eric’s.

  3. Oliver was identified by a passerby, Mark Purchase. The identification was of very poor quality. Oliver did not fit the descriptions of the gunman who was, according to eyewitness evidence, both shorter and older than him.

    Oliver’s nonsensical admissions

  4. His admissions to police were the main evidence against him. He was arrested in the early morning of 30 November 1990 and taken to Plaistow police station. He was said to have had made remarks on arrest and en route to the police station showing some knowledge of the murder. He arrived at 7.50 am and at 8.02 am signed the custody record to confirm that he did not want a solicitor or anyone informed of his arrest. In a taped interview in the absence of a solicitor or an appropriate adult he first denied involvement but then admitted that he had been the unarmed robber. However, the admissions were made in response to a quite misleading suggestion from the interviewing officer that he had dropped the hat in the shop – a suggestion to which he agreed.

  5. He was then taken to Hackney police station. At 12.00 noon he was examined by a doctor and found to be of limited intelligence. Arrangements were then made for him to have both a solicitor and an appropriate adult. He was interviewed at length in a manipulative and unfair manner without any regard to his infirmities. One officer created opportunities to talk to Oliver “off record” i.e. when no tape recording could be made.

  6. The detectives were plainly convinced that, since Oliver was the owner of the hat, he must have been the shooter and they were determined to get him

to admit that fact. They deliberately and falsely exaggerated the strength of the case against him and rang the changes between suggesting that the shooting could only have been deliberate and insinuating that it might have been an accident.

  1. The interviews continued on 1 December. Oliver denied any involvement but again made remarks showing that he knew something about the robbery. Oliver’s solicitor left the police station before 7pm. Police then arranged to interview Oliver again in the absence of a solicitor. They brought his foster mother to the police station to act as an appropriate adult.

  2. In a further interview starting at 8.30 pm he admitted to being the gunman. He said that the gun had gone off accidentally. The admissions were in many respects inconsistent with one another and / or with the known facts and some were simply absurd. For example, he claimed to have hired the gun together with a number of bullets, although he did not remember where from. He had practiced with it and had hidden it; but was unsure whether he had done so in a field or a forest. Having first indicated that he had fired with his left hand, he then said he had fired with his right. He claimed to have carried the gun in a holster which he had made under his left arm using two bits of string, even though he was, as admitted at the trial, left- handed. Anyway, the idea of a string holster is nonsense and seems totally impractical.

  3. The interview was too much for the stepmother. She said that she felt sick and it was abandoned, so that she could go to the toilet. When he next saw his solicitor’s clerk after the interview Oliver repeated the story about an accidental shooting. The clerk commented that it was unclear whether he was confessing or telling a story as if on TV. Shortly after being remanded in custody he appears to have told a prison doctor that both he and the other man had guns. But this seems very improbable for an attempted robbery of a supermarket and the “two gun” story contradicts what he had told police.

    Eric’s exoneration of Oliver in an interview with police

  4. Police officers who arrested Eric on 4 December 1990 said that, in a car on the way to the police station, they “engaged him in conversation” and he implied that Oliver had been the gunman. He said that he been shocked when a shot was fired. During a number of interviews in the presence of a solicitor he made no reply to almost every question.

  5. However, shortly after being charged and whilst in custody at HMP Wandsworth he made it clear that he wanted to see police again. Then, on

15 December, after an abortive identification parade, he had a long conversation with a detective in which he said that he had committed the offence with a man called Harvey who had earlier taken Oliver’s hat from him in the West End. Harvey, he said, had worn it on the robbery. After the murder they had gone to Lewisham, where Harvey had sold the gun.

  1. These admissions (“the Harvey admissions”) were not made under caution. However, they were likely to have been true for at least two reasons. First Samuels admitted quite against his own interest, that he had known that Harvey had a gun. Secondly the unidentified hairs in the cap were an important pointer to Oliver’s innocence.

    The Trial.

  2. The jury never heard the Harvey admissions. The prosecution, who had been intending to adduce them as part of their case, decided shortly before opening the case to the jury not to rely on them. They appear to have accepted at a late stage an objection by Eric’s counsel to their admissibility, because they were made after charge and without a full caution being administered.

  3. Under the law as it then was Oliver’s trial counsel were not entitled to adduce them in evidence or even to refer to them, because they were treated as hearsay.

  4. So, Oliver’s counsel could not bring out at the trial the main evidence of his innocence, because of an absurd technicality.

  5. Although formal admissions were made at trial about Oliver’s infirmities, no expert evidence was called on his behalf as to any reason why he might have confessed falsely. His solicitors had attempted to obtain such evidence, but tests done by the well-known forensic psychologist Dr Gisli Gudjonsson (“GG”) had shown that Oliver was not especially suggestible.

  6. Oliver gave evidence. He was greatly hampered by his poor memory and difficulty in explaining how he had come to make untrue admissions. He said that some days before the offence his hat had been “tached” in the West End when he had been with Samuels. He had not been on the robbery but could not say where he was at the time. He had tried to tell the police what had happened, but they had pressurised him and called him a liar. Eric did not give evidence.

  1. When summing up, the Judge made serious mistakes of law in regard to Oliver’s good character and the significance of lies he was alleged to have told. A number of his comments were, we submit, unfair. Although there were numerous instances of unfair questioning by police and absurdity and inconsistency in Oliver’s admissions the Judge pointed out very few of them.

  2. Yet the Judge himself had come to believe by the end of the trial that parts of Oliver’s confession could not be true. In his sentencing remarks and in his report to the Home Secretary the Judge said that he regarded Samuels as the “evil genius behind this scheme” and as the provider of the gun. So he must have rejected some important aspects of Oliver’s confession, for example that he had hired the gun together with a number of bullets, had practiced with it and had hidden it.

    The first Appeal

  3. Oliver appealed. The grounds of appeal included applications to adduce fresh evidence from two sources. A fellow prisoner alleged that both before and during the trial Samuels had admitted to him that Oliver was innocent and that he had got involved in the case because of a hat which someone else had taken from him in the West End. The CA held that this evidence was inadmissible hearsay and so did not even consider whether it was credible. Oliver also applied to adduce evidence from a psychologist, Dr Tunstall, who testified that, though not suggestible, he was in a general sense vulnerable to police pressure. The CA dismissed this opinion as “tentative in the extreme”.

    Investigations by the BBC and CCRC in the early “noughties”

  4. At the turn of Millenium the BBC became very interested in the case and investigated it, finally broadcasting “Rough Justice (If the Cap Fits)” in January 2001.

  5. The BBC traced Eric, who was a mental patient in Homerton Hospital. Having spoken to his family and his psychiatrist, the BBC arranged for a solicitor to take a statement from Eric. He did so in June 2001, but Eric would not allow its release. We have never seen it, but the solicitor confirmed to the BBC that it contained nothing detrimental to Oliver and that Eric was very frightened there might be comebacks from the perpetrator.

  1. The BBC obtained the following evidence which was relied on in the first application to the CCRC:

    • a covert video recording of a conversation between Eric and a BBC reporter, on 28 October 2001 at his family home in which he admitted that Oliver had not been with him on the robbery and gave a vivid account consistent with “the Harvey admissions”;

    • the opinion of a consultant neurologist Dr Legg that, given his disabilities and his left handedness, Oliver could not have constructed the holster under his left armpit;

    • a detailed report from Professor Brian Thomas – Peter (“BTP”). He considered the interviews in great detail and related them to Oliver’s personality and vulnerabilities. He concluded that police had questioned Oliver in an oppressive and domineering way. Oliver might have confessed falsely, because he thought that he would be convicted anyway and because the consequences of conviction would be less severe, if he said that it was unintentional (“an instrumental compliant false confession”).

  2. In February 2002 Oliver applied to the CCRC for the referral of his case. The Commission made its own investigations. It arranged for Eric to be advised by another firm of solicitors. Ultimately those solicitors informed the CCRC that Eric would not speak to them. It appears that he was concerned about possible further prosecution based on what he might tell the Commission.

  3. The CCRC then instructed GG to review the case and instructed Dr Susan Young of Maudsley Hospital to conduct tests on Oliver. She did so in March 2003. Her findings showed a degree of mental disability greater than had been appreciated at trial or on the first appeal.

  4. GG in 2003 agreed with BTP’s criticisms of the police conduct. He accepted that the “instrumental compliant false confession” theory might be correct but had not seen any evidence to support it. He criticised aspects of BTP’s approach as based on common sense rather than rigourous psychological theory.

  5. The CCRC declined to refer the case to the Court of Appeal. An attempt to obtain a Judicial Review of that decision was unsuccessful. The Administrative Court found that the decision was lawful and within the powers of the CCRC.

The recent Application to the CCRC and the Appeal

  1. Of course we still rely on the nonsense of Oliver’s admissions, the repeated exculpations by Eric and the unknown hairs in the hat. But our case is even stronger now than it was in the noughties because the law has changed very significantly in Oliver’s favour. So, we rely on

    • changes in the law on the right to a solicitor at an interview;

    • changes in the Codes of Practice for interviewing vulnerable suspects;

    • statutory changes made in in 2003 – 5 which would now allow Oliver to put the “Harvey admissions” before a jury, whether or not Eric gave evidence and to rely on all occasions when he repeated his exoneration of Oliver.

    • changes in the law and practice regarding the trial of vulnerable defendants designed to ensure that they get the help they need to explain themselves properly.

      These changes are important since the Court will apply contemporary. standards of fairness even though the conviction is over 30 years old.

      The CCRC’s grounds for the recent reference.

  2. The CCRC relies on recent reports from GG and another eminent forensic psychologist Dr Alison Beck. Their reports are very long and detailed and are not easily summarized. But, in a nutshell, they rely on the most recent scientific research. GG now accepts that in earlier reports he had not properly understood the full extent of Oliver’s vulnerabilities and focused too narrowly on his suggestibility rather than thoroughly examining his compliance 1, his background and communication difficulties. Dr Beck supports this conclusion. The consensus of experts now is that BTP was probably right in his view that Oliver decided after pressure from police that confessing to an accidental killing was his least bad option.

  3. The CCRC also relies on the changes in the way that the criminal justice system treats vulnerable suspects and defendants and on the concerns


Suggestibility is the tendency to accept messages communicated to an individual during questioning.

Compliance is the tendency to go along with propositions, requests or instructions, for some instrumental

gain (e.g. eagerness please, avoidance of conflict and confrontation).

raised by Eric’s exonerations of Oliver. It has established that Eric is now dead.

  1. At the appeal we will be entitled to rely on any matter related to those grounds (e.g. the police conduct) and any other ground for which the CA gives leave.

  2. The CPS have filed a Response opposing the appeal.

  3. Michael Birnbaum KC and Glyn Maddocks KC, with the assistance of Rose Slowe as junior counsel, are delighted to have at long last the opportunity to present evidence of Oliver’s innocence to the Court of Appeal. As they say

    “We can’t give Oliver back 30 lost years. But hopefully we can persuade the Court at long last to recognise the injustice done to him.”

  4. Any member of the press seeking more information should e mail Michael Birnbaum KC at mbirnbaum21@gmail.com or Glynn Maddocks KC at glynmaddocks@icloud.com

    Michael Birnbaum KC Glyn Maddocks KC (Hons)

    17 September 2023