Conviction for robbery ruled unsafe

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A MAN jailed for 14 years for armed robbery had his conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal as a result of criminal charges brought against Scotland Yard detectives.

George Ellis, 38, from east London, had claimed during his trial that a Flying Squad officer planted evidence against him. The court heard yesterday that 25 members of the same squad, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been charged or suspended or would have been suspended if they had not already retired. None of those charged had yet been tried. After an appeal hearing in London yesterday, Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Mr Justice Maurice Kay and Sir Patrick Russell, ruled that his conviction was unsafe.

Mr Ellis was convicted at Woolwich Crown Court in September 1997. He was sentenced for robbery, unlawful wounding and having an imitation firearm with intent arising out of a pounds 37,000 raid on a Thomas Cook bureau de change in Chingford, Essex, in June 1996.

Lord Justice Rose, giving the court's decision yesterday, said at Mr Ellis's trial there was DNA evidence in relation to saliva said to have been found in two masks - evidence Mr Ellis claimed was planted. The judge said the Flying Squad officer who "alone had taken the saliva samples from the masks" was arrested and charged last summer with offences involving dishonesty. "He is ... suspended from duty and committal proceedings are expected to take place shortly against him."

Lord Justice Rose, who was also ruling on the case of one of Mr Ellis's co-accused, Anthony Zomparelli, said: "In relation to these 25 officers, the Crown takes the attitude that it is right not to invite the court to rely on any evidence which any one of those 25 officers might have given in relation to the trial of these appellants when considering the safety of their convictions."

In the case of Mr Ellis, the Crown took the view that the most damning evidence was the DNA in relation to the saliva - a big issue at trial was the suggestion that this had been planted - and in the light of subsequent events, it could not seek to uphold the conviction as being safe.

John Kelsey Fry, counsel for the prosecution, said the Crown did not intend to rely on the evidence of those officers where their evidence was in issue at trial.

The three judges also allowed the appeal of Zomparelli and ordered a re-trial in his case. He is in custody.