Stabbing case boy cleared in landmark ruling: Appeal court's declaration of innocence deals fresh blow to criminal justice system

A SCHOOLBOY, who at 13 became a victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, won an unprecedented declaration of innocence by Court of Appeal judges yesterday.

The unequivocal exoneration of Ivan Fergus, now 16, after six months in detention, deals the criminal justice system its second severe blow in as many weeks. It followed the acquittal of the Taylor sisters of murder earlier this month, and led to immediate calls for an inquiry.

Few involved are expected to escape criticism when the appeal court gives its judgment next week - from the trial judge, Peter Rowntree, down to the prosecution team and the police. However, most blame is likely to be levelled at the then defence lawyers. His solicitors, Topping & Co, of south-east London, have since been suspended from practising over matters not connected with the appeal.

As a model pupil at a south London school, Ivan was convicted of stabbing a bank clerk with intent to rob - solely on questionable and uncorroborated identification evidence. He was sentenced to 15 months' youth custody. A month after the assault, the bank clerk identified Ivan, when he spotted him at a bus stop. But yesterday the appeal judges were told Ivan 'bore little resemblance' to the description the clerk had originally given police.

He had then said the attacker was 5ft 11in; aged 16-18; had a light brown complexion; was unshaven; and had patterns shaved into his hair. In fact Ivan was 4in shorter, was aged 13, had no facial hair; had a dark Afro-Caribbean complexion; and patterns were not shaved into his hair until two weeks after the assault.

Further, Ivan had a cast-iron alibi, but no one - not even his own lawyers - had taken complete statements from all four alibi witnesses, or called them as defence witnesses. Neither did they call his mother, Nellie, who knew he did not own the clothes described by the assault victim, or his hairdresser, or several character witnesses, including teachers.

Lord Justice Steyn, Mr Justice Hutchison and Mr Justice Rougier quashed the conviction on all three grounds: the weakness of the identification evidence; misdirection by the trial judge; and failures by the defence. They had been told police were partly to blame for failing to investigate Ivan's alibi, despite being urged to do so by prosecution lawyers, and for not making notes and a photograph of Ivan, taken after his arrest, available to prosecution or defence.

Lord Justice Steyn said: 'Ivan Fergus may leave this court knowing not just that his conviction was unsafe and unsatisfactory, but that it is our judgment that the case against him was a wholly false one and he is entirely innocent.' Normally, appeal judges confine themselves to legal terms surrounding 'unsafe and unsatisfactory'.

Afterwards Ivan spoke of his 'terror' and 'confusion', and his 'anger' at those responsible for the disruption of his education and life. He has just taken his GCSEs and is to study art and design at college.

His mother said: 'The terrifying thing is that, if I had just left it and not made a fuss, he would have been criminalised for the rest of his life. The police could have picked him up and said, 'You've done this sort of thing before, haven't you'. '

Harriet Harman, Ivan's MP in Peckham, said: 'I'm calling for a full investigation into the Crown Prosecution's handling of the case, and the police investigation into the case, and will be calling for the Home Office to consider compensation.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower