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Bid to overturn arson convictions

Two men found guilty of arson attacks on department stores will ask to have their convictions quashed in the first of a raft of cases that could be overturned due to the involvement of undercover police.

Lawyers for Andrew Clarke and Geoff Sheppard claim they were the victims of a miscarriage of justice when they were found guilty of firebombing branches of Debenhams.

They will renew attempts to get the convictions overturned after a damning report by Mark Ellison QC published yesterday found that information obtained by undercover officers had not been disclosed to defence teams and therefore miscarriages of justice may have occurred.

The Home Secretary has commissioned Mr Ellison, along with the Crown Prosecution Service and Attorney General, to conduct a further review into cases that could be affected.

Clarke and Sheppard were convicted over attacks on branches in Luton and Romford that it was claimed were staged by members of the Animal Liberation Front to stop the shops selling fur.

It was alleged that undercover police officer Bob Lambert had planted a third device at a branch in Harrow, but he has denied this and said he would never have committed such a serious crime.

Lawyers for the two convicted men have previously asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to look again at the case, but the attempts have been dismissed.

They plan to renew their attempts in the light of Mr Ellison's report, and plan to launch appeals if prosecutors do not co-operate.

Solicitor Mike Schwarz said: "There is some evidence to suggest that an officer from the Special Demonstration Squad played a key role before, during and after the events which led to my clients' convictions, although he denies this.

"The case raises deep concerns not just that my clients spent a long time in prison when they should not have done so, but also, more broadly, about questionable undercover police practices over the last decades. It is hoped that the police will finally be open about and account for its actions."

Home Secretary Theresa May announced yesterday that there would be a review to find whether there were miscarriages of justice as a result of decades of secretive work by undercover police.

Scotland Yard's top secret Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was running for nearly four decades and police moles infiltrated hundreds of protest groups.

Mrs May said: ''In particular, Ellison says there is an inevitable potential for SDS officers to have been viewed by those they infiltrated as encouraging, and participating in, criminal behaviour. We must therefore establish if there have been miscarriages of justice.''


From Belfast Telegraph