Police lose appeal against home rampage convictions

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The Independent Online
THREE policemen jailed for rampaging through a family home after drinking off-duty and lying about it in evidence lost their appeals against conviction yesterday.

The Court of Appeal refused to hold that an Old Bailey jury's verdicts against Nicholas Jones, 29, Jonathan Lehrle, 27, and John Walsh, 31, were 'unsafe and unsatisfactory'.

The three constables, based at Chelsea, south-west London, did not challenge the length of the two- year sentences passed on them by Judge Neil Butter last June for affray and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The appeal judges rejected argument that Judge Butter wrongly failed to warn the jury to ignore the fact that the policemen's main accuser, Francis Milburn, a student, had earlier been cleared by magistrates of assaulting Jones with a baton. His acquittal, it was argued, did not mean the officers had lied in their evidence against him.

Judge Butter had protected the officers' interests by warning the jury in strong terms not to accept Mr Milburn's evidence on its own because he might have had an axe to grind, said Lord Justice Beldam, sitting with Mr Justice Judge and Mrs Justice Ebsworth.

The judges also refused to hold there was a 'lurking doubt' over the convictions in the light of the evidence as a whole and flaws in the accounts of prosecution witnesses.

The officers had been drinking in the Anglesea Arms, Chelsea in June 1992. They were not drunk, but the noisy behaviour of people leaving the pub at closing time disturbed a resident opposite, Mr Milburn, who was studying for his finals at the London School of Economics.

Mr Milburn shouted from his bedroom window and was later to claim the three men made obscene gestures and urged him to come down. He appeared at the front door, wearing only his boxer shorts and carrying a long wooden baton. According to Mr Milburn, supported by two witnesses from the pub, the men forced their way into his home and, unaware they were policemen, he struck Jones on the head with the baton inside the house.

An affray ensued which involved his mother, his stepfather and his 87-year-old grandmother. Mr Milburn was arrested for assault, but later acquitted.

The officers insisted Jones was struck with the baton outside the house. But they were accused of causing an affray and concocting their story.

After yesterday's ruling, Walsh's brother Mike, 34, a chartered accountant, said the men's families would not give up their fight.

He added: 'We have received thousands of letters of support from police officers all over the country, and we will now sit down with our lawyers to discuss what to do next and approach the many MPs who have supported us.'