Jodi murderer’s human rights breached by police, justice watchdog reports
By Bob Smyth
POLICE officers breached Luke Mitchell’s human rights when they questioned him over the murder of his teenage girlfriend Jodi Jones, according to a report by Scotland’s official justice watchdog.
Mitchell was convicted in 2005 of the murder of Jodi, 14, and is serving a life sentence :- despite repeatedly protesting his innocence.
For the past two years, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) has been investigating whether he received a fair- trial.
Now the Government-funded body has ruled that even though Mitchell’s rights were infringed by the way he was treated, he was not the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
The SCCRC report makes it clear that, despite Mitchell’s claims that he is innocent, there are no grounds to I challenge the guilty verdict.
Chief executive Gerard Sinclair wrote: ‘The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has now completed its inquiries into whether or not a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in respect of Mr Luke Muir Mitchell’s conviction and sentence. The Commission has decided not to refer Mr Mitchell’s case to the High Court.’
The ruling is a blow for the prisoner in his long-running bid to clear his name – but the SCCRC did deliver one finding in his favour.
page report, it concluded that Mitchell’s human rights had been breached.
This decision could bolster Mitchell’s claims if, as expected, he decides to launch yet another legal challenge to his conviction at the European Court of Human Rights.
The infringement relates to the way Mitchell was questioned by police. Within an hour of Jodi’s mutilated body being found on June 30, 2003, Mitchell, at the time a 14-year old living in Dalkeith, Midlothian, gave a statement to the police.
His supporters have since argued this was unfair as there was no solicitor present but the force has always insisted suspicion did not officially fall on the boyfriend until two days after the killing.
The report stated: ‘The Commission considers that by the stage at which he gave his first police statement (July 1, 2003) the applicant was a suspect.
As a suspect he was “charged” for the purposes of Article 6 (of the Human Rights Act).
‘Following that argument it means that, as he did not have access to a solicitor before his statement was noted from him on July 1, 2003, the Article 6.3 rights on which he was entitled to rely were infringed and, on one view, the first police statement ought not to have been admitted as evidence.’
The SCCRC added that a subsequent statement, on July 4, also infringed his human rights for the same reason and ‘on one view, the transcript of his interview, which the Crown led as evidence, ought not to have been admitted in evidence’.
A third interrogation, on August 14 of the same year, again breached the legislation, not least because Mitchell asked for a solicitor but was told by police he had no right to a lawyer, according to the commission.
It said the interviews formed a ‘significant part’ of the prosecutor’s closing argument and found it would be ‘fatuous’ to argue that highlighting inconsistencies and lies in Mitchell’s answers was ‘anything other than damaging to his defence’.
Despite this, the SCCRC concluded the murder conviction itself was not a miscarriage of justice because evidence from these interrogations was not needed to prove the case against Mitchell, now 25.
He was convicted following a lengthy and harrowing trial, during which the court heard how Jodi had suffered a slashed throat and cuts to her eyelids, cheek, left breast, abdomen and right forearm.
She was found behind a wall in woodland by Mitchell and his dog following a search launched by the schoolgirl’s family.
His discovery was later taken as an indication of guilt but he has always maintained he was led to the scene by his pet.
As part of its review, the SCCRC also carried out DNA testing and experts recovered two tiny, previously undiscovered samples from the top of Jodi’s trouser leg.
The results indicated that although it was likely the DNA was attributable to semen, it was not possible to say conclusively that other body fluids were not also included.
These tests indicated the DNA came from a male who was not Mitchell. Even so, the new evidence was not enough to persuade the SCCRC there was any doubt over Mitchell’s conviction.
The SCCRC also rejected as insignificant the fact that both Mitchell and his mother had taken – and passed -lie detector tests.
Corinne Mitchell was accused of giving her son a false alibi and of destroying evidence of the murder but her later lie detector results indicated she was telling the truth when she denied those allegations.
However, the SCCRC said the outcomes of such tests were irrelevant as polygraph examinations are not admissible in Scottish courts.
Criminologist Dr Sandra Lean, leading the battle to free Mitchell along with his mother, said: ‘It goes without saying that this will come as a shattering blow to him. He will not give up his fight and if that means going to the European Court, I’m sure that is what he will want to do.
‘The evidence from the police interviews certainly harmed Luke’s defence and was cherry-picked to blacken his name and paint him as angry and aggressive.’