Latest Garbutt application to CCRC ‘still under review’

The Criminal Case Review Commission has confirmed that the latest application to review the murder conviction of Robin Garbutt, submitted on 5th December, 2019, is still under consideration. No date has been indicated by the watchdog’s press office as to when the decision will be communicated to his legal representative, Martin Rackstraw of Russell-Cooke solicitors.

An appeal against his conviction was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in May, 2012. A jury at Teesside Crown Court found Garbutt guilty of the murder of his wife, Diana, in April, 2011. The brutal attack on the vivacious 40 year old had taken place 13 months earlier at a business run by the couple, Melsonby Village Store and Post Office in North Yorkshire. She was killed by three blows to the head with a rusty iron bar (read full story here).

The CCRC has confirmed that two previous applications submitted by Garbutt were also rejected. The first was made in March 2015 and closed, without a referral to Court of Appeal, in June, 2016. The second was made in February, 2017 and a similar decision given in July, 2017.

The Garbutt family, and those attached to his claims of innocence, have previously declined to confirm those dates when requested to do so.

Indeed, in a podcasted interview with criminologist, Dr Sandra Lean, broadcast on Sunday 7th June, 2020, the lead campaigner, Jane Metcalfe, wrongly stated that the first CCRC application was made in 2013 and missed out any reference to the second one altogether. A number of press articles falsely reported that the third application was made in January, 2020 or later. These include The Justice Gap, a publication in which the Garbutt campaigners place great faith, and add to a concerning tally of basic reporting errors and palpable lack of investigative rigour.

There were a number of other inaccuracies uttered by Ms Metcalfe in what was a production ambitiously billed as ‘The Truthseekers‘. It did not feature a single searching question from Dr Lean. Jane, increasingly a stranger to the truth and an odd choice for an academic to choose as the launchpad for this new venture, was allowed to parrot her cherry-picked, well-rehearsed narrative, unchecked, which routinely steers around the key issues upon which the jury came to convict Garbutt and the Court of Appeal declared the conviction safe.  A forensic and utterly devastating take-down of the Metcalfe podcast can be read here.

His campaigners are now well known for blanking enquiries that do not fit with their ‘narrative’ and, in that spirit, have refused to publish the Decision Letters and Statements of Reasons from the first two applications Garbutt made to the CCRC. Looking at the time spent on the applications by the watchdog, often criticised for delays of up to ten years before reaching a decision, it is reasonable to infer that the Garbutt case has not, so far, merited a full investigation. The first may have been subject to a conditional rejection before the case was finally closed. The second was, probably, rejected out of hand as having little or no merit.

The CCRC say that their decisions are accompanied by a full record of their investigations. Neither of the first two rejections of Garbutt’s applications were challenged by judicial review, the only legal channel available to him. Instead he chose to make a third application, less than five years after the first.

The CCRC are at pains to point out that they encourage applicants to share details of the decisions. The watchdog cannot, of course, share them due to personal data restrictions.

The campaigners still consistently seek to re-heat matters that were either dealt with at trial or by the Court of Appeal. It is as if they (and Garbutt) do not understand the legal and evidential hurdles that need to be overcome before his conviction could be quashed.

Garbutt has, fairly recently, sought to jump on the notorious Horizon software bandwagon, after a lengthy, bitterly-fought legal battle resulted in a High Court ruling against Post Office Ltd in which they were ordered to pay £55 million in damages. Consequently, a large number of convicted postmasters and postmistresses have had their cases referred, by the CCRC, to the Court of Appeal (read more here).

The Melsonsby post office murderer has little or no prospect of the CCRC finding that Horizon software failures will be sufficiently persuasive for a long-awaited referral back to the law lords at the Royal Courts of Justice. The reasoning behind that bold assertion is set out in detail here. Campaign leader Metcalfe says that ‘an addendum’ to the Garbutt application was submitted to the CCRC as the High Court judgment against the Post Officer came later.

The claims of a poor police investigation (read about their failings in shocking detail here) would have more traction, but most of those were before the jury, in any event, and those unearthed later do not appear, from the limited information in the public domain, to impact on the Court of Appeal’s findings.

It is understood from a well-placed source that the Garbutt application has passed from the case review manager to the Commissioners who will, ultimately, decide its fate. That may mean that the decision is weeks, rather than months, away.

The Garbutt campaigners have been offered right to reply via their official website. The email did not even receive an acknowledgement.

Page last updated on Monday 29th June, 2020 at 1420hrs

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Author: Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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