London

George Davis wins appeal against robbery conviction

A man who continually denied involvement in an armed robbery has won an appeal against his conviction.

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

Three appeal court judges allowed the conviction challenge brought by Davis, who is now 69, and lives in London.

Davis, who said he was not seeking compensation, was delighted but described it as a bitter-sweet moment.

He was released from prison in 1976, following doubts about his identification.

Evidence to show the convictions were unsafe "had been in the hands of the authorities since 1977", lawyers said.

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

Announcing the decision Lord Justice Hughes said "new material affecting the identifications of the two policemen at the scene of the robbery is of considerable significance".

Image caption George Davis's case attracted widespread attention

He said: "We do not know whether Davis was guilty or not, but his conviction cannot be said to be safe."

After the ruling, Davis said in a statement: "I am, of course, delighted that my conviction has been quashed.

"I have been protesting my innocence since 1974."

Davis was tried, along with three other defendants, in 1975 but was the only one found guilty.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison but released the following year after the then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins said there was serious doubt about his identification.

Lord Hughes said this was done on the basis he (Mr Jenkins) was "satisfied that the identification evidence has been seriously weakened" but he did not "have the evidence of innocence to justify recommending a free pardon".

He said the Court of Appeal was in "a similar state of ignorance whether or not the defendant committed this robbery and we are unable positively to exonerate him".

During the 1970s, Davis's case attracted widespread attention with punk band Sham 69 writing a song about him.

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

Roger Daltrey, frontman of The Who, wore a T-shirt proclaiming Davis's innocence, with the convicted man's name daubed across railway and road bridges.

Davis said: "I have made it clear that I have no intention of seeking compensation for my wrongful conviction.

"I have pursued this appeal for all these years because I wanted all those people who worked for, and helped, the campaign in the 1970s to know that their support was justified."

The appeal was heard in February before Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Henriques and Mrs Justice Macur.

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