George faces wait for Dando appeal judgment

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The Independent Online

Barry George faces a wait to find out if his appeal against his conviction for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando has been successful.

George, 47, was present in the dock of the Court of Appeal in London as the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, and two other senior judges reserved their judgment in the case on the third day of the hearing.

They did not give a date for the ruling, but Lord Phillips said the court did not anticipate that it would be reserving its judgment "for a good length of time".

It is George's second legal challenge over a jury's 2001 verdict that he shot the 37-year-old BBC News, Crimewatch and Holiday presenter on the steps of her home in Fulham, south-west London, in April 1999.

The new appeal centres on fresh scientific doubt cast on the significance of a single microscopic speck of firearm discharge residue found in George's coat after his arrest a year after the shooting.

Lord Phillips asked Orlando Pownall QC, for the Crown, that in the event of the appeal being allowed he would be seeking a retrial.

Mr Pownall said that he would.

In closing submissions to the court, Mr Pownall emphasised: "The plain fact is that whatever the perception of the outsider - the individual reading the newspaper or watching a television programme - this case was not, and never has been, based on a speck of dust.

"Of course, I accept that the firearms discharge residue formed an important part of the case, but it was not in itself the Crown's case."

He argued that there remained a "compelling circumstantial" case against George.

George lost his first appeal in 2002 and the second challenge followed a decision by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), an independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice, to refer his case back to the Court of Appeal after a "thorough and intensive review".

George, who lived about half-a-mile from Miss Dando's home in Gowan Avenue, has always denied being her murderer.

Lord Phillips, sitting with Lord Justice Leveson and Mr Justice Simon, has been told that a Forensic Science Service (FSS) report concluded last year that "it would be just as likely that a single particle of discharge residue would have been recovered from the pocket of Mr George's coat whether or not he was the person who shot Ms Dando nearly a year previously".

William Clegg QC, making his closing arguments on behalf of George today, posed the question: "Were the jury inadvertently misled into thinking that the evidential weight of the firearm discharge residue (FDR) was greater than it was? The answer must be yes.

"The experts called by the Crown failed to get across to the court the essential neutrality of the FDR evidence."