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3 minutes reading time (607 words)

Kevin Nunn takes miscarriage of justice case to the CCRC

In 2006, Kevin Nunn was convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend, Dawn Walker.  He has currently been in prison for 10 years for the crime, but has always protested his innocence.

Mr Nunn was convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone; none of the forensic evidence gathered at the time indicated that Mr Nunn was the killer.  An eyewitness who placed him close to the victim’s home on the night of her murder was one of the main prosecution witnesses, yet numerous problems with her evidence have been exposed.  In the US, it has been established that eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions, playing a role in 72% of convictions overturned through fresh DNA testing.

Crucially, sperm found on the victim's body could not have been his; Mr Nunn had had a vasectomy.  The sperm sample taken from the victim was not sufficient for DNA testing then.  But it is now.

Rosalyn Hammond is an eminent forensic scientist whose team identified the culprits in cold case reviews such as the killings of Damilola Taylor and Stephen Lawrence. She is optimistic that, in Mr Nunn’s case, pivotal scientific evidence may have been overlooked, and the huge advance in the sensitivity and scope of DNA profiling techniques is likely to reveal new and pertinent evidence.

Mr Nunn has fought for the last few years to have the exhibits from the scene released by Suffolk police for renewed DNA testing, which he hopes will reveal the identity of the real killer.  However, the Chief Constable of Suffolk, despite Ms Hammond’s expert opinion and repeated appeals from Nunn’s lawyers, has refused to release items for testing, on the basis that he sees no real prospect that examining case materials will reveal any new evidence.

In the US, access to DNA testing of exhibits post-conviction has proved to be crucial in a large number of recent exonerations, often of people who have spent years on death row.  In North Carolina, for example, thanks to their legislation and the North Carolina Innocence Enquiry Commission, there is the right to obtain access to case exhibits, have them tested, and take the result to the appeal courts.  However, it may surprise the average person in the UK that there is no equivalent access to post-conviction DNA testing on this side of the pond.

This lack of access to case materials was confirmed when Kevin Nunn took his case to the Supreme Court in 2014. The Court’s ultimate finding was that for Mr Nunn, and other potential victims of miscarriages of justice, there is no general duty to disclose case materials to a convicted defendant who has exhausted the appeal process.  For a convicted defendant to have case materials examined, there must be a “real prospect” that it may reveal something affecting the “safety of the conviction”.  But often there can be no such “real prospect” until the testing has been carried out and results obtained.  In short, a Catch-22 situation.

Mr Nunn’s hope for a review of his case now rests with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which in practice often requires a reasonable prospect of the conviction being quashed before it will even make a scientific enquiry into the case evidence.  His application to the CCRC was made in January 2015 and he eagerly awaits their response.

It is to be hoped that the CCRC use their powers to find the truth and potentially catch a killer still at large.

Kevin Nunn is represented by James Saunders and is assisted by Polly Lane.

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