Sam Hallam released on unconditional bail as prosecution announces no opposition to murder conviction appeal

 

A young man who spent seven years in jail for murder has been freed on unconditional bail today after the prosecution announced it would not oppose the appeal against his conviction.

Sam Hallam, 24, from east London, was in the dock at the Court of Appeal to witness the dramatic scenes in which his 2005 conviction was described as a “serious miscarriage of justice”.

There were cheers and tears from his family in the public gallery as Lady Justice Hallett said the court would give its official ruling tomorrow, when his conviction is expected to be quashed, but that Hallam would be released on bail this afternoon. Mr Hallam appeared shell-shocked as he was led out of the Royal Courts of Justice by his mother amid noisy applause from a group of well-wishers.

Mr Hallam was convicted of murdering trainee chef, Essayas Kassahun, 21, who died from head injuries after being beaten by a gang of youths on a housing estate in Clerkenwell, east London in October 2004. Ethiopian-born Mr Kassahun died two days after the attack which was carried out with a screw studied baseball bat.

Mr Hallam, who always maintained that he was playing football half a mile away at the time of the murder, was sentenced to life at the Old Bailey in 2005 when he was just 18-years-old.

The Independent has been among those campaigning for Mr Hallam’s release.

* Read The Independent's 2010 story on the case here: Sam Hallam has spent six years in jail for a murder he swears he did not commit. Now, he has received the news he thought would never come - that the case is to be reopened

* Read The Independent's 2009 article on visiting Sam Hallam in prison with his mother here: Mother fights to free the Hoxton One

The first appeal against his conviction was quashed in 2007 but fresh evidence gathered by campaigners persuaded the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) to re-investigate.

The CCRC ordered Thames Valley Police to help them re-investigate the case originally handled by Scotland Yard, led by Detective Chief Inspector Mike Broster, and every witness was re-interviewed under caution.

He's the same officer who eight years and one promotion later was criticized by the coroner at the “spy in the bag” Gareth Williams inquest for not following every possible lead in his role as vetted liaison between the police investigation and MI6.

The Thames Valley investigation, which has never been published, found major failings in the way the investigation had been carried out, specifically the failure to pursue reasonable lines of enquiry and the failure of the investigating officer, Broster, to record his investigative decision making and rationale.

Mr Hallam’s barrister, Henry Blaxland QC, told the three appeal judges that a miscarriage of justice was brought about by a combination of factors - including failure by the police to properly investigate Hallam's alibi and by non-disclosure of material by the prosecution that "could have supported his case".

Summarising the grounds of challenge, he told Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Openshaw and Mr Justice Spencer: "It is our case that this appellant Sam Hallam - and I put it boldly - has been the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice brought about by a combination of manifestly unreliable identification evidence, the apparent failure of his own alibi, failure by police properly to investigate his alibi and non-disclosure by the prosecution of material that could have supported his case."

Outside court his family paid tribute to Sam's courage and refusal to give up.

His sister Daisy Hallam, 16, told The Independent: “It feels like I’m dreaming. It was so horrible to think of him on his own in prison every day. I’m so relieved. Sam will find it strange at first. He never moaned about what had happened to him.”

His brother, Terry, 32, said: “He’s my baby brother. We’ve been fighting to get home free for so many years. My dad should be here to see this. I want to take Sam with his brother and sister to see his father’s grave for the first together."

Sam's father, Terry, 57, committed suicide 15 months ago, unable to cope with his son's incarceration.

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