A message from the legal team

It’s been one week since Ben’s story appeared in the Independent on Sunday and this website was launched. Since then, articles have appeared in a variety of other newspapers and websites, including the Oxford Mail article entitled ‘Is Banbury nurse a killer or victim of coincidence?’ Included in the article was a quote from a Mr Thorburn, whose father was one of the patients at Horton General Hospital that suffered a collapse.

He said: “To make matters worse, all these hundreds of thousands of pounds that are being spent on his appeals are funded by Legal Aid, so not only are we having to constantly relive this tragic event, I’m having to pay to help my father’s attacker try and walk free… This shouldn’t be happening. Our family would like and should have closure now but we’re not being allowed by Geen or his family. He’s guilty and this should stop.

Going back through some past articles on the Oxford Mail’s website about Ben, I stumbled across this comment made by an anonymous contributor to the article ‘Killer Nurse: Guilty verdict was right‘ from November 2009:

“He knows he’s guilty and probably accepts the original verdict, the trouble is that his legal team saw another opportunity to line their pockets, so an appeal was made… The only reason he needs a ‘legal team’, when one solicitor or lawyer could argue over any debatable points is probably solely down to the very greater fee they can charge the legal aid system.”

Starting with Mr Thorburn’s comments, I am not sure of the exact cost of Ben’s appeal but it is certainly nowhere near “hundreds of thousands of pounds”. The majority of the research for the appeal has been undertaken by the London Innocence Project (LIP) a Pro Bono organisation run by Mark McDonald through the City Law School in London. LIP is staffed by unpaid volunteers who are studying to become solicitors or barristers. They spend a few hours every week looking over papers and investigating possible grounds of appeal in several cases. If it appears that a case has sufficient merit then Mark takes it on, also unpaid, until he is able to obtain legal funding. Ben’s appeal has also been partially funded by his family, who have privately paid for several of the expert reports such as Professor Hutton’s which dismisses the ‘unusual pattern’ evidence that was put before the jury at the original trial.

Mr Thorburn clearly has a problem with the idea that taxpayer’s money in the form of legal aid has been spent on Ben’s appeal. There is no real way to answer that, other that since occasionally the criminal justice system can get it wrong and miscarriages of justice do happen it is necessary that legal aid is extended to criminal appeals.

If you’re in any doubt, then here a few examples; Barry George was convicted of murdering the BBC presenter Jill Dando and spent 7 years in prison before being acquitted. Sean Hodgson had to spend 27 years before the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction in 2009. Both of these pale in comparison to Derek Bentley, who was executed in 1953 and had his conviction posthumously overturned in 1998. If people had been so convinced of their guilt as Mr Thorburn is of Ben’s then these miscarriages would still be occurring.

In response to the second, anonymous comment, this is the product of a very sceptical reader who is not in possession of all the facts. Ben’s legal team (neither of which were involved at the original trial) consisted of Dr Michael Powers QC who was a practicing anaesthetist before becoming a barrister and has vast experience of the drugs that are central to Ben’s case and Mark McDonald, who along being the founder of LIP is also a director of the death row legal charity Reprieve and was awarded Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in 2009. The case involved over 2500 pages of documents, hence the need for two barristers to be involved, purely due to the huge amount of facts involved and the complexity of the arguments. And as a side note, the Crown Prosecution Service had two QCs at the appeal to Ben’s one.

What Mr Thorburn and the anonymous commentator should be asking themselves is what price is too much to secure an innocent man’s freedom? In the meantime, Ben’s family, his legal team and the volunteers at LIP will carry on to clear his name, whatever the cost.

By James Bromige, trainee barrister and case worker for the London Innocence Project.

Royal Statistical Society reports on free Ben Geen campaign

The Royal Statistical Society has reported on the campaign to free Ben Geen, with an article highlighting Jane Hutton’s report into the statistical evidence presented in the case against Ben. The article says:

“Nurse Benjamin Geen’s defence team asserts he is a victim of a “major miscarriage of justice” as it begins an appeal to overturn his murder conviction based on a review of the statistical evidence.

Medical statistician and RSS fellow Professor Jane Hutton, who serves on the external affairs committee of the medical section of the RSS, says the evidence given in the summing up does not support the “conclusion that any unusual pattern was not a chance event”.”

Read the full article here.

Milton Keynes Citizen reports on the battle to free Ben

The Milton Keynes Citizen has reported on the campaign to free Ben Geen with a front page article. The article says:

“…the family swear he is innocent and claim there is no proof that the former Radcliffe School student, now 29, actually gave the injections.

Barrister Mark McDonald told the Citizen a team of defence experts have this week began working on a new appeal after a previous attempt to overturn the conviction was rejected last November.

“We do not believe any crimes were committed,” said Mr McDonald.”

Read the full article on the campaign to free Ben Geen at the Milton Keynes Citizen.

Oxford Mail follows up on Ben Geen story

The Oxford Mail has followed up on its original story about the launch of the campaign to free Ben Geen. The article says:

“Now lawyers acting for the former Horton Hospital nurse will submit fresh evidence from a statistician to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has the power to send the case back to the Court of Appeal. The lawyers say no crimes were actually committed, the victim’s deaths were coincidental, and health bosses were so keen to prevent another Harold Shipman-style situation they looked for blame.”

Read the previous coverage on freeing Ben Geen, and the new article.

Oxford Mail covers campaign to free Ben Geen

The Oxford Mail has covered the launch of the renewed bid to free Ben Geen.

“The new attempt is the second time barristers working for the former Territorial Army lieutenant have tried to overturn his conviction. A similar bid to have his conviction challenged as ‘unsafe’ failed in November at the Court of Appeal. Today an online campaign was launched protesting Geen’s innocence. His lawyers are expected to submit fresh evidence from a statistician to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.”

See the full article on the Oxford Mail’s website.

The Independent on Sunday reports on Ben’s fight

The Independent on Sunday has published an article that highlights Professor Hutton’s report questioning the basis of Ben’s conviction.

The article states: “A nurse jailed for 30 years for murdering two patients and seriously harming 15 others was convicted of crimes that never took place, new evidence suggests. [...] Lawyers will tomorrow begin fresh efforts to have the conviction overturned. They say Geen, a former Territorial Army lieutenant from Banbury, Oxfordshire, is the victim of a “witch-hunt” in a health service desperate to prevent anything that might echo the case of Harold Shipman, the GP thought to have killed at least 200 of his patients.”

Read the full article on the Independent’s website.

The London Innocence Project launches online campaign to free Benjamin Geen

Press release: LONDON – The London Innocence Project today launches an online campaign to free Benjamin Geen, a nurse and a victim of a gross miscarriage of justice. The launch of the campaign comes on the day that lawyers representing Ben will submit a new case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission protesting his innocence.

The online campaign, located at http://freebengeen.org/ brings together key documents that are central to proving Ben’s innocence.

In 2006, Ben was sentenced to 30 years for murdering two patients and seriously harming 15 others by injecting them with drugs. But medical experts say there is no evidence that anything untoward happened – or that the illnesses people suffered had anything other than natural causes.

Michael Powers QC, Geen’s barrister, said: “There has been a major miscarriage of justice.”

Ben’s parents said in a statement at the time of his conviction: “We are totally convinced of our son’s innocence and will continue to campaign on his behalf to find out the accurate and true events of two years ago at the Horton Accident and Emergency.”

“We know that our son neither committed nor is capable of committing these terrible crimes.”

About Benjamin Geen
Ben Geen is a former nurse and Territorial Army lieutenant who worked at Horton General Hospital in Banbury, in Oxfordshire. In 2006 Ben was found guilty of injecting patients with drugs that stopped their breathing, and sentenced to 30 years for murdering two patients and seriously harming 15 others. New evidence submitted to the Criminal Cases Reviews Committee this week calls this conviction into question, and The London Innocence Project has started this campaign to overturn it.

About The London Innocence Project
The London Innocence Project is a non-profit legal resource clinic and criminal justice centre that works to examine and prevent potential miscarriages of justice. Based at 1 Pump Court Chambers and run by criminal defence barrister Mark McDonald and a team of law and journalism students, we work to exonerate the wrongfully convicted by examining their cases and subjecting both the evidence and the trial process to close scrutiny. We distribute research reports on criminal justice and strive to ensure that the rule of law is maintained on the basis of equality before the law and procedural fairness. The London Innocence Project has a dedicated team of barristers committed to providing high-quality legal representation to those who maintain their innocence.