The Metropolitan Police says it has “deep regret” over Sam Hallam’s loss of liberty following the decision of the Court of Appeal this week to free him and overturn his “unsafe” conviction for murder.
Commander Simon Foy, head of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said: “The death of Essayas Kassahun was a tragedy and what followed was a complex investigation for which one person remains convicted.”
“It is a matter of deep regret that Sam Hallam lost his liberty due to what has subsequently been found to be an unsafe conviction.”
He added: “The circumstances of his death involved a large group of people and this type of investigation often relies on people coming forward to give us personal accounts. We continue to face challenging investigations such as these and there are undoubtedly certain lessons to be learned for police and the wider criminal justice system from today’s judgement which we will carefully consider.
Lady Justice Hallett, in a one hour ruling for a panel of 3 Court of Appeal judges, said that Hallam’s conviction was now unsafe because of the unreliability of identification evidence and new evidence found on his mobile phones that supported his contention that he could not have been in the gang of youths beating up the victim on the St Luke’s estate in Clerkenwell in October 2004.
The judge explained that Hallam did not help his own defence by not being able to remember where he was and what he was doing and remaining silent during police interviews. The alibi he eventually advanced of playing soccer half a mile away from the murder scene turned out to be false, but she said this was due to his: “faulty recollection and a dysfunctional lifestyle, not a deliberate lie”
Commander Foy said: “We fully supported the Thames Valley Police review carried out on behalf of the Criminal Cases Review Commission and are grateful to them for their work.”
Meanwhile Sam’s miscarriage of justice has been receiving global coverage in the world’s media. It was reported that one of the first things he did after tasting freedom in his community of Hoxton was have a meal of the celebrated local delicacy of eel pie and mash.
But he and his family have to make the considerable adjustments facing people who have been wrongly convicted and served long prison sentences; in his case a period of nearly 8 years between his arrest in 2004 and his release at the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday.
His local community of Hoxton rallied round his family and organised a sophisticated and successful multi-media campaign for his release, but the stress contributed to the tragedy of his father taking his own life.