This is the story of a man’s conviction in 1970 for a violent robbery at a supermarket in Leeds – and his long and ultimately unsuccessful struggle to clear his name. The case went to the Court of Appeal four times and was the first to be referred twice to that court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Some books on alleged miscarriages of justice can be a little worthy and self-righteous. This work, however, is an excellent read. It is a gripping crime story, an accurate portrayal of northern working-class life in the 1970s and an interesting review of how the law on police procedure has developed.
It is astonishing the way the investigation was handled. The police took the victim of the robbery to the suspect’s house not once but twice for a doorstep confrontation. On one occasion two police officers, the main witness and the suspect all travelled together in a Mini Cooper. Awkward.
Author: Jon Robins
Publisher: Waterside Press (£18)
When the suspect is interviewed there is not even a suggestion that he should be offered legal advice. The routine was to contact a friendly solicitor after the person had been charged. A good way to reduce the legal aid budget, I suppose. It was believed at the time that police deliberately fabricated confessions so that the defendant would be forced to challenge them. Then evidence of his ‘bad character’ would come out at the trial. However, this has never been determined by a court in the Stock case.
The account of the trial is cogent, without the pages of detail often found in similar books. It is full of gems: like the young police sergeant described by the judge as a ‘splendid type of officer’ who was later accused of serious corruption in a separate case. He was acquitted. He faced 90 disciplinary matters and was later allowed to resign. No charges were brought.
I am also grateful that the book introduced me to the excellent Red Riding fictional books by David Peace which are set in the same period and area.
Most importantly, this is a story of an alleged miscarriage of justice where the solicitors are not exactly heroes, but nevertheless come out very well.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott