This week fans of Coronation Street saw the culmination of the dramatic storyline involving Peter Barlow and the death of his girlfriend, Tina McIntyre. The allegation of murder, vigorously denied by Peter, was made after Tina was pushed from a balcony and beaten with a lead pipe.
The jury unanimously convicted Peter after only deliberating for a short time. They heard evidence of Peter’s alcoholism, emotional abuse of previous partners and extra-marital affairs.
The guilty verdict prompted fans of the character to start a social media campaign in support of his release, similar to the campaign initiated for his step-mother, Deidre, after she was incorrectly convicted of fraud charges in the late 1990s.
Coronation Street viewers are in the fortunate position of having watched the storyline develop and being in possession of all relevant facts, including most significantly that the real perpetrator was Peter’s brother in law, Rob Donovan.
However, the reality for most defendants is that overturning a conviction is difficult. Often, as in this case, evidence that could exonerate defendants is not identified or available by the time of trial, or even by the time an appeal can be lodged (within the 28 day time frame). Thankfully, an application for leave to appeal ‘out of time’ can be made if there are good reasons why the appeal was not lodged within that time.
However, there is no automatic right of appeal or re-hearing on any appeal. Any convicted person does have the right to seek leave from the Court of Appeal to appeal if they can put together substantial arguments which might persuade the Court of Appeal that the conviction is unsafe.
That can either be in the way of fresh evidence, or more usually be based on arguments of law which point to the trial process being fundamentally flawed.
The Court of Appeal does have discretion whether to receive evidence if it in the interests of justice to do so but would normally in exercising that discretion have regard to four questions:-
1. Is the evidence relevant to the issue of guilt
2. Is it capable of belief
3. Is it admissible in law
4. Is there a reasonable explanation as to why the evidence was not given at trial.
In Peter’s case, with Carla on the trail of her murderous brother, it seems this may not be the end of the road. So whilst the characters of soap land can rest easy knowing, as is often said, that the bad guys will get their comeuppance, the reality for many defendants is that the appeal process is not quite that straightforward. The importance of securing the advice and assistance of a specialist criminal appeal lawyer, as soon as is practicably possible, can not be overestimated.
If you have been convicted of an offence and wish to obtain advice in respect of an appeal, please do contact our Appeals team on 0333 344 4772.