Appeal court overturns former care worker's conviction for abuse

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The Independent Online

A former care worker serving an eight-year sentence for abusing children more than 20 years ago had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Anver Daud Sheikh, 52, is among a group of about 120 people convicted of child abuse who claim to be victims of a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Sheikh was convicted at York Crown Court in May 2002 of buggery and indecent assault against two boys under his care at a North Yorkshire children's home where he worked as a housemaster in 1980.

The appeal court released him on bail after the prosecution conceded that the conviction was unsafe. Mr Sheikh may face a retrial, but will have to wait until next month to find out.

Mr Sheikh's legal team, who had argued in court yesterday that a retrial would give the prosecution an unjustified "second bite of the cherry", said after his release that the question of a new trial would again be strongly contested when the case returned to the Court of Appeal next month.

As he was released from the court cells, Mr Sheikh, a former soldier who lives in Leicester, said it had taken the Crown Court judge "a few short minutes" to send him to prison for a crime he did not commit. "Today, happily, it took Lord Justice Kennedy a similar time to give me back my freedom," he said. "As I walk out before you, I have very mixed feelings. I am elated to be going home today." He thanked his wife, Jamila, his children and family, and the Historical Abuse Appeal Panel, a newly formed solicitors' group, which had investigated his case and was inquiring into many others. The campaign group for the convicted abusers believes that in many cases disturbed children have made false allegations in order to obtain compensation.

Children's groups and the police, however, argue that it is extremely difficult to obtain a conviction for abuse and that strict legal tests have to be passed before cases reach trial.

Campaigners for the former carers convicted of abuse have criticised the police for going on so-called "trawling expeditions" to obtain evidence. In some forces detectives have approached former pupils and care home residents and asked them whether they have been abused. Lawyers believe in some cases they were encouraged to make complaints and were told about the compensation payouts. The police argue that obtaining evidence in this way is standard practice.

The Home Affairs Select Committee concluded two years ago that abuse allegations in children's homes had led to a new genre of miscarriages of justice.