A man has walked free and a murderer is in prison, thanks in part to the work of a University of Portsmouth lecturer.
James Kirby, a criminal defence barrister and a Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law, advised on case evidence after being approached by the BBC programme, Rough Justice in 2003.
He was asked to advise on evidence in the conviction of Barri White, who was in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Rachel Manning in December 2000. Mr White’s conviction was based entirely on evidence from an expert who had analysed microscopic trace elements found on Rachel’s clothing. Rough Justice was concerned that Barri White’s conviction may have been a miscarriage of justice.
Mr Kirby considered the evidence and, in a 4,000 word statement, advised that the expert’s methodology was selective and partisan and that his conclusions were largely speculative. He further advised that further analysis of soil samples and DNA were required, together with analysis of fabrics in Mr White’s flat where Rachel had been earlier in the evening.
On his advice Rough Justice instructed other forensic scientists and in March 2005 they broadcast their programme “Murder without a trace” with new forensic findings. This led to a new hearing in the Court of Appeal and Barri White’s acquittal in 2007 after serving six years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Thames Valley police stepped up their search for the real killer and in 2010 Shahidul Ahmed was arrested for an attempted sexual assault: His DNA was taken, and found to match that left on the murder weapon. On 4 September 2013 at Luton Crown Court Shahidul Ahmed was convicted of Rachel’s murder and must serve a minimum of 17 years before he is considered for parole.
Mr Kirby said: “It is gratifying to have been able to assist Louise Shorter, the producer of Rough Justice, and her team, and all who worked to overturn Barri White’s wrongful conviction. It is especially so now that her real killer is behind bars, convicted, on reliable evidence.”
The University’s School of Law supervises the Innocence Project, a student-run project which deals with alleged miscarriages of justice. Students receive referrals from prisoners who believe they have been wrongly convicted through the United Kingdom Innocence Network. Under supervision from a member of staff and an external lawyer, the students receive the case files and then investigate the claims. If the students find there are grounds for appeal, the lawyer will take over the case and make a reference to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.