‘Unsafe confession’ ruled after teenager testified to remembering the crime as if it were a “dream” (2006)

A man who served 14 years of a life sentence for murder has had his conviction quashed after evidence revealed that his confession to police had been obtained during three days of questioning without a solicitor present. The overturned conviction is the latest miscarriage of justice involving interview evidence obtained by officers from Nottinghamshire Police during the Eighties.

The Court of Appeal yesterday declared the murder conviction of Patrick Nolan “unsafe”. Mr Nolan, who was 19 at the time, was found guilty of bludgeoning 64-year-old Eric Carver to death while he slept at his home in Lenton, Nottingham, in December 1980.

The conviction in 1982 was based on Mr Nolan’s confession to police, which he retracted shortly after making it, and has always protested was made under duress. There was no forensic evidence, no description, no murder weapon and no conclusive motive. At the trial, Mr Nolan claimed he was beaten by an officer during his questioning.

Lord Justice Tuckey – sitting yesterday at the Court of Appeal in London with Mr Justice Holman and Mr Justice Hodge – told the court: “The proof of murder depended entirely on the confession of a 19-year-old, illiterate man, made in the course of 11 hours of interviews, over three days, without a solicitor present.”

The judge said the court had read evidence from two psychologists, who concluded that Mr Nolan had a “compliant” personality at the time. They singled out a range of disquieting aspects, including Mr Nolan’s references to remembering the crime as if it were a “dream”. In all, 6,000 people were questioned over Mr Carver’s death, the court heard, with two others also making “confessions”.

“Judged by modern standards in the light of this new evidence, we have no hesitation in declaring this conviction unsafe,” ruled Lord Justice Tuckey.

Mr Nolan, now 44, has already been released on licence. He is reportedly seeking compensation of £1.5m. His case was referred to the Appeal Court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission – the body that investigates suspected miscarriages of justice.

At least two other convictions involving confessions obtained by the Nottinghamshire force have been quashed because of suspect questioning.

(Retrieved from the Independent, 10th November 2006)

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