Teenager’s bid for freedom

Jordan Cunliffe
Jordan Cunliffe
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THE family of a Wigan teenager jailed for a notorious murder have been given fresh hope that his name will be cleared.

The mother of Jordan Cunliffe, convicted three years ago for his part in the killing of Warrington dad Garry Newlove, says that there is important new evidence to present to the courts.

And solicitor John Weate, who fought to secure the release of Liverpool football fan Michael Shields, after he was jailed for attempted murder in Bulgaria, has agreed to take on the case.

The teenager’s cause is also now being championed by a national organisation, called Wrongly Accused Person, set up by Billy Middleton, who was convicted, but then cleared of an arson attack which claimed his baby daughter Annalise’s life.

It comes on top of recent support voiced by acclaimed writer Jimmy McGovern, who has proclaimed Jordan Cunliffe an innocent man and is currently penning a drama which draws on details of the case.

Cunliffe, 19, was jailed for a minimum of 12 years in January 2008 after a Chester Crown Court jury found him guilty of Mr Newlove’s murder.

He was one of a group of youths with whom Mr Newlove remonstrated over vandalism to his wife’s car, only then for the 47-year-old to be fatally beaten and kicked.

Adam Swellings, 19, and Stephen Sorton, 17, from Warrington, were also convicted and jailed for murder and have since lost appeals against the convictions, although the latter’s appeal against sentence managed to get his minimum term reduced from 15 to 13 years.

But so far Cunliffe has been refused leave to appeal against his conviction, three judges throwing out an application in July.

He was convicted of murder under the controversial joint enterprise legislation, which means that even though he did not himself attack Mr Newlove, he was still guilty because he was part of the group, and did not attempt to stop his friends from attacking the victim.

Yet two other youths, charged with the same crime and in the same group, were acquitted. Supporters say this is significant to his cause, and also point out that Cunliffe suffers from an eye condition called keratoconus which renders him almost blind.

Janet Cunliffe today said she was cautiously optimistic about latest developments, not least the agreement of award-winning solicitor John Weate to take up the case for her son.

She said: “We are very pleased that Mr Weate is looking at the case for us, having played an important part in that much publicised case involving Michael Shields, who ended up receiving a royal pardon.

“We also have evidence which has never been seen before.

“I cannot reveal it at the moment, but we are hoping that that will help the case.

“It is also very encouraging to have the support of Billy Middleton, who has argued Jordan’s case very well on his website.”

Mr Middleton said: “Jordan’s conviction isn’t safe and it certainly isn’t moral.

“It is the result of an entire justice system, professed to be the best and fairest in the world, stooping so low as to betray and exploit an innocent boy, who couldn’t see because of a disability.

“Using a 300-year-old archaic law to achieve a conviction of him based solely on what he had seen, but was incapable of seeing.”

Mrs Cunliffe, who yesterday visited her son at Swinfen Hall Prison in Lichfield, Staffordshire, also maintains he has a strong case.

She said: “In order to be convicted, someone’s guilt has been established beyond all reasonable doubt, with the exception of joint enterprise.

“People don’t realise how loose and low the bar is set for people to be convicted of murder under this law.

“You can go to prison for the most serious crime on hearsay evidence.

“We still think we have a strong case. We wouldn’t be carrying on the fight if we didn’t because we all know, including Jordan, that if he continues to maintain his innocence, and we can’t convince the courts of it, he could stay behind bars for the rest of his life.”

Mrs Cunliffe said that her son was very anxious and scared in prison, although there was some relief that inmates had taken to protecting him from bullies, on account of his eyesight problems.

l Cunliffe’s case as championed by Wrongly Convicted Person can be seen by visiting http://caseblog.wronglyaccusedperson.org.uk/justice4jordancunliffe/prosecution-case/