Bristol students in battle to overturn conviction of alleged armed robber

Two aspiring lawyers from the University of Bristol are fighting the conviction of a man imprisoned 30 years ago.

William Beck

William Beck

Postgraduate law students Mark Allum and Ryan Jendoubi last week produced a response with the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP) to the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission, calling into question the evidence used to convict William Beck of armed robbery in 1981.

Under the guidance of Dr Michael Naughton, founder of the UoBIP, the students had seven months to compound a submission.

Naughton said: “The result is a considered yet robust submission on behalf of an alleged innocent victim of wrongful conviction who has exhausted legal aid and had nowhere else to turn.”

“Mark and Ryan epitomise all that is good about student pro bono in UK law schools. Devoting an average of ten hours a week for almost a year, they have demonstrated an ability for team working on a challenging task, which will stand them in good stead with their future aspirations for a career in criminal law.”

Beck was arrested for robbing a post office van in Livingston, and sentenced to a jail term of six years. Out of five eyewitnesses only two were able to pick him out of an identity parade.

Allum added: “Mr Beck’s conviction was based primarily upon identification evidence part of which the trial judge referred to as unreliable and part of which he suggested the jury should treat with great care.”

In five years UoBIP has helped to set up around 30 Innocence Projects in UK universities, relying on the goodwill of more than 500 staff and enthusiastic students to respond to the huge demand, with the support of pro bono lawyers.