Men jailed for robbing student during riots freed after error


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The Independent Online

Two men convicted of robbing a Malaysian student during the London riots in August last year have had their convictions overturned after the Court of Appeal “disagreed” with a judge’s decision to allow testimony from anonymous witnesses at their original trial. 

The attack on Ashraf Rossli caused widespread outrage after being recorded on a mobile phone video camera, and came to symbolise the UK-wide disturbances.

The video uploaded on to YouTube showed Mr Rossli, 20, being helped up by two men posing as Good Samartians on 8 August in Barking, east London, after the accountancy student had had his jaw shattered by another rioter as he cycled near the Queen’s Road flyover.  But the men were then recorded going through the dazed student’s bag and taking a games console and games.

John Kassongs Kafunda, 23, and Reece Donovan, 25, were both arrested shortly afterwards. At Wood Green Crown Court in March, Mr Kafunda was jailed for four years and three months for robbery and violent disorder despite telling police he was “a million per cent sure” the person on the video was not him. “You’re sending an innocent man down,” he said as he left the court. Mr Donovan was jailed for five years for robbery, violent disorder and burglary.

But today they both saw their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The pair had been convicted on the basis of anonymous witness evidence allowed by the judge at the time. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the convictions had been quashed because the Appeal Court judges disagreed with the “judge’s original call” to accept anonymous testimony, which can only be granted in particular circumstances.

A CPS spokesman said: “Victims and witnesses are at the heart of the Criminal Justice System and it is important that they have the support necessary to enable them to give their best evidence at court.

“Where it is necessary to protect the identification of a witness we can in certain circumstances apply to the court for witness anonymity.

“Our application for witness anonymity for two witnesses in this trial was allowed by the judge. Without anonymity being given, these witnesses would not have given evidence.

“The Court of Appeal has quashed these convictions as a result of allowing this application.”

The CPS said it would not be seeking a retrial.