George Davis’s armed robbery conviction overturned by Court of Appeal
A man whose case became part of criminal folklore after he was jailed for armed robbery finally had his conviction overturned today after decades of protesting his innocence.
But three Court of Appeal judges who announced that George Davis’s 1975 Old Bailey conviction was “unsafe” also said they were unable to “positively exonerate him”.
Mr Davis, who has always denied involvement in a raid in April 1974 at the London Electricity Board in Ilford, said afterwards that he was “delighted” his conviction had been quashed, commenting: “This is a bitter-sweet moment for me.”
His case attracted widespread attention in the 1970s, with punk band Sham 69 writing a song about him, The Who singer Roger Daltrey wearing a T-shirt proclaiming his innocence and his name being daubed across railway and road bridges across the East End.
Campaigners calling for his release also vandalised the pitch at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds in 1975, causing a Test match between England and Australia to be abandoned.
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Mr Davis, now 69, who lives in London, was originally sentenced in March 1975 to 20 years for robbery and wounding with intent to resist arrest.
The same year the Court of Appeal rejected a conviction appeal bid but reduced his sentence to 17 years.
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Davis’s sentence was remitted by Royal Prerogative and he was released from prison in 1976.
He was arrested again in September 1977 and later pleaded guilty to his involvement in an armed robbery at the Bank of Cyprus in London. He was sentenced to 15 years, reduced to 11 years on appeal.
This week’s ruling by Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Henriques and Mrs Justice Macur followed a referral of his case to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, an independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.
Lord Justice Hughes said: “We do not know whether Davis was guilty or not, but his conviction cannot be said to be safe.”
Following the decision, Mr Davis said he had always claimed he had been falsely identified “but it should not have taken 36 long years for me to be able to stand here like this”.
He said: “I have made it clear that I have no intention of seeking compensation for my wrongful conviction.
“I have pursued this appeal for all these years because I wanted all those people who worked for, and helped, the campaign in the 1970s to know that their support was justified.”