Programme accuses court of self-interest

THE COURT of Appeal has been accused of putting the interests of the legal profession above the interests of justice.

The charge has been levelled by the television programme Trial and Error following the rejection of an appeal by 64-year-old Sheila Bowler, who was convicted of murdering her elderly aunt.

A petition will now be lodged with Home Secretary Michael Howard for the appeal to be re-heard.

The programme alleges the court refused to hear crucial evidence because of qualms over criticisms of Nicholas Purnell QC's original defence. Bowler was accused of pushing her frail elderly aunt into a river.

At the appeal Gordon Pollock QC suggested Purnell had erred in failing to suggest the aunt could have walked to the river unaided from the car where Bowler claimed she had been left.

The judges defended Purn-ell's tactics and refused to hear the evidence of a geriatric expert who, the programme claims, would have shown that the aunt could have reached the river unaided.

In the programme, broadcast recently, former Bar Council chair Anthony Scrivener QC said: “There seemed to be some resentment on the court's part that an attack was being made on a very experienced, very well-known and highly respected counsel.”

Presenter David Jessell said the decision “appeared to be an example of the system going to great lengths to safeguard its own integrity”.

Trial and Error would like to hear from lawyers handling miscarriage of justice cases. Ring 0171 404 6744.