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Injustice campaign ends in death of victim as questions remain over Crown Office failings

02 Nov

For some in the legal system this week, it will be a time of celebration, as Mr Stuart Gair, a victim of a terrible injustice sadly died before receiving compensation for false imprisonment or a true accounting of why he went to jail and who was to blame for his injustice.

Mr Stuart Gair, who was jailed in 1989 for a murder he did not commit, died earlier this week of a heart attack, after spending 17 years protesting his innocence, and successfully seeing the Court of Appeal quash his murder conviction and the Judges attack the failure of the Crown Office to disclose witness statements to his lawyers.

A quote from the Scotsman newspaper article :

Jailed for life, he served 12 years but protested his innocence from day one. He was released in 2000 pending an appeal, but it took a further six years before his conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh in July last year. He insisted he had been the victim of a police frame-up.

Mr Gair, originally from Alloa, was cleared after it was ruled he had suffered a miscarriage of justice. In the judgment delivered by the Appeal Court, Lord Abernethy said it meant “the defence were deprived of a powerful argument on the crucial issue of identification”.

Failure to disclose … a common tactic of the Crown in many prosecutions has become an almost common factor in cases of injustice in the criminal legal system these days, and still the Scottish Executive Government have done nothing with regard to reforming laws on disclosure, although as recent reviews recommended reforms, we have yet to see any movement in the slow area of Scots Law on this issue.

I said earlier there would be celebrations in some quarters over the untimely death of Mr Gair, and I’m not just being cynical, I’m speaking from experience.

Those who caused Mr Gair’s injustice, to be locked up in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, will most likely be using his untimely death as an excuse to counter any call for a substantive accounting of their actions in this case – it happens all too often, a victim dies, and that is the end of the story, the people who are truly guilty escape justice and injustice continues with the silence of the dead, no longer able to question those who for their own ends altered the course of justice to injustice, a now familiar term in Scots Law.

Those who thrive on injustice, profit from injustice and cause injustice, can never be allowed to escape their crime, and those responsible in the case of Stuart Gair, should for all our sakes, and that of the Scots legal system, be held accountable for their actions of depriving an individual of his freedom, on the premise of a lie.

Articles from the Scotsman & Herald follow :

Innocent man jailed for 12 years dies just months before £1m compensation

TANYA THOMPSON AND EAMONN O’NEILL

THE victim of one of Scotland’s most shocking miscarriages of justice has died, months before he was to receive £1 million in compensation.

Stuart Gair, who was jailed in 1989 for murder, died yesterday at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary following a heart attack.

Mr Gair, 44, who spent 17 years protesting his innocence, was last year cleared by appeal judges who attacked a failure to disclose witness statements to his lawyers.

Jailed for life, he served 12 years but protested his innocence from day one. He was released in 2000 pending an appeal, but it took a further six years before his conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh in July last year. He insisted he had been the victim of a police frame-up.

Mr Gair, originally from Alloa, was cleared after it was ruled he had suffered a miscarriage of justice. In the judgment delivered by the Appeal Court, Lord Abernethy said it meant “the defence were deprived of a powerful argument on the crucial issue of identification”.

John McManus, co-ordinator for Glasgow-based Mojo, the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, said he was with Mr Gair when he died.

He added: “This is a tragedy. Stuart had been waiting for compensation and the whole thing had put him under a lot of strain. He had suffered dreadfully, and had only just started to get some counselling.”

In 1989 after a five-day trial at the High Court in Glasgow, Mr Gair was found guilty of murdering Peter Smith, a former soldier, who was stabbed in Glasgow city centre.

Mr Gair denied murder and put forward a defence of alibi, insisting he was in another part of Glasgow at the time. But he was convicted on a majority verdict.

He protested his innocence and campaigners rallied to his cause. Eventually, his case was sent to the Appeal Court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Mr Gair had petitioned the Scottish Secretary over his case and was freed on bail in 2000. Identification was the key issue at the trial and lawyers acting for Mr Gair argued that, crucially, the Crown failed to disclose important information to his defence.

During the trial, a witness, Brian Morrison, who was 19 at the time, identified Mr Gair as a man he saw come out of public toilets and go in the direction of North Court Lane, where the attack happened.

In an initial statement, he said he would definitely be able to identify the two men he had seen and that one of them had threatened him.

But later, he told officers: “A lot of what I have already told the police is not the truth. I made up some of it to attract attention.”

Mr Gair’s defence counsel, Gordon Jackson, QC, argued that if this information had been available to his lawyers Mr Morrison could have been cross-examined in such a way as to show the jury they could not trust a word he said.

A note had been attached to Crown papers for the trial which said that at one point Mr Morrison had signed himself into a psychiatric hospital. It went on: “Morrison and his vivid imagination certainly set the police off on the trail of a red herring initially.”

In the Appeal Court judgment, Lord Abernethy concluded: “In these circumstances, we have come to the conclusion that the non-disclosure of these police statements and other information resulted in a miscarriage of justice.”

Sources close to Mr Gair said that, had he lived, he would have received about £1 million in compensation.

and now for the report from the Herald :

Miscarriage of justice victim Gair dies

LUCY ADAMS. Chief Reporter

Stuart Gair, the Scot who spent 17 years waiting to prove he was wrongfully convicted of murder, has died of a heart attack just 15 months after clearing his name.

Mr Gair, 43, suffered the attack on Friday while being filmed by Donal McIntyre, the investigative journalist. He was taken to hospital but died yesterday afternoon.

Last night, friends paid tribute to the man who spent 12 years in prison, wrongfully accused of murder.

Mr Gair was only 25 when, by a majority verdict, a jury convicted him of the brutal murder of 45-year-old Peter Smith during a knife attack in Glasgow city centre.

Mr Smith, a former soldier of West Plean, Stirlingshire, was stabbed in the chest at North Court Lane on April 11, 1989, and died later from his injuries in hospital. Mr Gair denied committing the offence, but was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

He had put forward a defence of alibi, maintaining that he was in another part of Glasgow at the time of the murder, which occurred near toilets at St Vincent Place.

His fight to clear his name attracted a number of high-profile campaigners. His case was referred back to the Appeal Court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review in 1999.

In 2000, he was freed on appeal, and began a lengthy series of court hearings.

The question of identification was the key issue at the trial and lawyers acting for Mr Gair argued that, crucially, the Crown had failed to disclose important information to his defence at the time of the trial.

During the trial, a witness, Brian Morrison, who was 19 at the time, identified Mr Gair and his former co-accused as two men he saw come out of the toilets and go in the direction of North Court Lane, a well-known hang-out for homosexuals.

He said he had a good look at the two men and studied their faces carefully. But in previous statements to police, he had given conflicting information.

During an initial statement, he said he would definitely be able to identify the two men he saw and that one of them had threatened him.

But later he told officers: “I have to tell you that a lot of what I have already told the police is not the truth and I made up some of it to attract attention to myself.”

Last year when Mr Gair’s conviction was overturned he said he was relieved but “shattered”.

John McManus, of Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (Mojo), said the stress of being wrongfully locked up had killed Mr Gair. “All we can do now is hope his death will prevent other people having to go through the same circumstances without any support or trauma counselling.

“He was released without any support whatsoever. People have no idea of the level of stress this puts people under.

“Like all of those who have been wrongfully convicted, he was suffering from severe post traumatic stress and he hadn’t even received his financial compensation.

“There has to be better support put in place to help people in these circumstances.”

Mr McManus said he died at 12.40pm yesterday. It is thought the funeral will be organised by Mojo.

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Posted by on November 2, 2007 in Law, Scots Law

 

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