London

George Davis in bid to clear 1975 robbery conviction

George Davis being helped into a waiting car in May 1976
Image caption George Davis's case was taken up by Sham 69 and The Who's Roger Daltrey

A man who was jailed for 20 years for an armed robbery committed almost 37 years ago has appeared in court in a bid to prove his innocence.

George Davis was jailed for 20 years for armed robbery and wounding in connection with a raid in April 1974 at the London Electricity Board in Essex.

Following a number of high profile protests he was released in 1976.

The Court of Appeal heard 69-year-old Davis's convictions should be overturned.

Ashes protest

The east London minicab driver was tried along with three other defendants in 1975 but was the only one found guilty.

He was released in May 1976 after Home Secretary Roy Jenkins said there was serious doubt about his identification.

The convictions were referred to the court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), an independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

It submitted to Wednesday's hearing that evidence to show the convictions are unsafe "has been in the hands of the authorities since at least 1977".

Davis, who lives in London, was originally sentenced in 1975 to 20 years. That same year the Court of Appeal rejected a conviction appeal bid, but reduced his sentence to 17 years.

Davis's sentence was remitted by Royal Prerogative and he was released from prison in 1976.

His case attracted widespread attention in the 1970s, with Sham 69 writing a song about him.

'Hands of authorities'

His campaigners insisted he was the victim of mistaken identity and that he not taken part in the robbery in which a police officer was shot in the leg and injured.

The Who frontman Roger Daltrey wore a T-shirt proclaiming his innocence and Davis's name was daubed across railway and road bridges.

Image caption Graffiti appeared across the country after the conviction

Campaigners managed to halt a test match between England and Australia in 1975 after vandalising the pitch at Headingly cricket ground in Leeds.

The match was declared a draw, preventing England a chance to win back the Ashes.

They dug holes in the pitch and poured oil over one end of the wicket. The walls surrounding the ground were also vandalised with slogans calling for Davis's release.

Davis was arrested again in September 1977 and pleaded guilty to his involvement in an armed robbery at the Bank of Cyprus in London. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail, subsequently reduced to 11 years on appeal.

When referring the case last year, the CCRC said evidence not disclosed at the original trial and uncovered in later investigations meant there was a real possibility the conviction could be quashed.

The appeal is being heard before Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Henriques and Mrs Justice Macur.

Before the hearing, Bernard Carnell, consultant at solicitors Shaw Graham Kersh, said in a statement issued on Davis's behalf: "It is our intention to demonstrate to the Court of Appeal that evidence which shows Mr Davis's convictions in 1975 to be unsafe has been in the hands of the authorities since at least 1977, when the final report of an independent police investigation into the case was completed by Det Ch Supt Moulder."

Mr Carnell said: "If, as I believe, there has been a failure for over 30 years by those in authority to disclose essential evidence which could have demonstrated that Mr Davis was innocent, it is as serious an affront as there could be to the expectation of a defendant having a fair trial."

The case continues.

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