Justice for Victims

Posted on: 10th June 2011


Andrew George MP Letter from Sir David Calvert-Smith QC re Justice for VictimsThe MP for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives, Andrew George, will tell Ministers that the families of murder victims receive shoddy treatment from the state. He will lead a debate in Parliament next Wednesday afternoon (8th June 2011). (EDIT: The full text of the debate can be found here)

Mr George has taken up a case on behalf of his constituent, Joanne Bryce, since the shocking killing of her sister, Claire Oldfield-Hampson, was uncovered in December 1998 when her remains were exhumed from the garden of her home in March, Cambridgeshire.

At the subsequent trial, her killer – husband, David Hampson – was convicted for manslaughter on the grounds that the Judge believed that he had been driven to it by his wife’s alleged ‘nagging’!

Hampson was given a six year prison sentence which was reduced on appeal to just four years. He was released 14 months after the original trial.

But it is not just the appalling handling of the case and the leniency of the sentence that Mr George will raise with the Government’s Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt MP, next Wednesday. It is the way the law treats the victim’s family.

A man can kill his wife but under the law is still ‘next of kin’. The Criminal Cases Review Commission reviews cases for perpetrators of crimes but not victims or their families. The criminal is allowed to submit new evidence at an appeal, but victims are not.

In cases like this, victims’ families have to request the permission of the killer’s family for family affects. For Joanne Bryce this included such things as family heirlooms, war medals, personal affects, photographs and educational certificates held by the killer’s family and which have been denied to the victim’s family whose property they originally were. The blood family are not allowed a death certificate but are responsible for the funeral after having to gain the killer’s (next of kin) permission to hold one. The blood family were not allowed to enter the home of their murdered sister but the killer’s family may take things away.

These and many other issues which most people may find shocking still apply in cases of murder/manslaughter where the murderer/killer is the ‘next of kin’.

Andrew George has already raised concerns about the manner in which the original case and the trial was handled in a debate he called in Parliament over ten years ago (details attached) and has consistently raised concerns on behalf of the family about aspects of the case since then.

There has been an Inquiry into the original handling of the case by Cambridgeshire Police. The family and Mr George are still seeking full access to the report of that investigation.

Mr George said in his debate in 2001 that to mount a case in mitigation, the prosecution had to permit the defence to effectively defame the memory of the victim. Mr George called it a ‘contortion of justice’. He said:

“If this is what our country calls justice, we should be ashamed of what we are doing for victims. Claire Oldfield-Hampson was first unlawfully killed by her husband and then dumped in the garden; then she was exhumed by the state, taken to court and slaughtered again.”

Mr George received an acknowledgement that there were failings by the Crown Prosecution Service and Mr George ultimately received an apology from the then Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith, acknowledging that some aspects of the case in mitigation should not have been permitted to be presented without being challenged (see attached letter).

Mr George said: “I will not let this case drop. If this is how we are treating victims of crime we should feel ashamed. This whole case has been a grotesque contortion of justice. We must learn lessons from the Claire Oldfield-Hampson case and ensure that this kind of appalling travesty is never visited upon an innocent family in this way ever again.”