After a seven year campaign by his family and supporters, including the actor Ray Winstone, Sam Hallam, 24, from Hoxton has been freed on unconditional bail. The prosecution said they would not oppose his appeal against a murder conviction of a young trainee chef in October 2004.
The dramatic development at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand was unexpected. The young man left the building with his mother and was drenched in champagne before being driven away to enjoy his first night of freedom since 2005 when he was found guilty of murdering Essayas Kassahun.
Hallam said he was playing football half a mile away when the victim was beaten up by a gang of youths on the St Luke’s housing estate in Clerkenwell. Kassahun died two days afterwards.
Hallam’s mother Wendy told reporters: “My family has been through hell. It has been torture for Sam and the whole family.” It has been reported that Sam’s father, Terry, died 15 months ago, because he was unable to cope with his son’s continuing imprisonment for a crime he did not commit.
Three appeal court judges are expected to give their reasons for quashing his conviction at 12 noon Thursday April 17.
Hallam’s QC, Henry Blaxland, said:
“It is our case that this appellant Sam Hallam – and I put it boldly – has been the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice brought about by a combination of manifestly unreliable identification evidence, the apparent failure of his own alibi, failure by police properly to investigate his alibi and non-disclosure by the prosecution of material that could have supported his case.”
The Sam Hallam miscarriage of justice campaign has been run using multi-media and arts community events. The actor Ray Winstone has consistently campaigned for his release and presented an ITV Tonight edition in 2007 outlining the problems with the case.
Other mainstream media organisations including the Independent have published articles criticising the conviction.
On the eve of the appeal Channel 4 News’s Home Affairs Correspondent, Simon Israel, broadcast a report highlighting the fact that the detective originally in charge of the inquiry is the same officer who was criticized by the coroner at the “spy in the bag” Gareth Williams inquest.
The appeal hearing followed a new investigation by the Thames Valley police commissioned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) who were thanked by Lady Justice Hallett: “May we express our appreciation to everybody who has been involved in investigating this matter, particularly the CCRC and Thames Valley Police, who have done an incredibly thorough job.”