R. v. Barry George  EWCA Crim 2722 is a criminal case concerning admissibility of Circumstantial Evidence. This case was highly publicised due to the victim Ms Jill Dando's occupation - the presentor of Crimewatch.
V was shot dead by a bullet to the head, 9mm cartridge. A year later Barry George's (BG) coat was found to have one single particle of FDR that matched the element found in the cartridge case and the victim's hair, however BG does not recall whether the coat was worn when she saw V prior to the murder.
At trial the prosecution was able to show:
BG was at the scene 4 hours before the crime, this does not show that he had committed the crime but the speculation that it was possible BG had remained onsite whilst the crime was being committed.
He lied repeatedly during interview.
He had attempted to create false alibi for the time of shooting.
BG was convicted on trial and unsuccessfully appealed to the CoA once before on the ground that the FDR evidence was too insignificant to be admitted to the jury. The CoA concluded that the FDR evidence was admissible, its weight is a matter for the jury to decide.
The conviction was reviewed by the Criminal Case Review Commission who also believed too much emphasis was placed upon the single particle of FDR. Therefore referred the case back to the CoA.
According to Forensic Science Service (FFS) the adduction of small quantities of particles as evidence must be treated very carefully as these particles could equally have come about innocent of any wrongdoing. In terms of FDR where we lack environmental data on its occurrence, the evidential weight of such evidence must be very carefully assessed. The FSS thought that the FDR for this specific case was inconclusive regarding whether BG shot V.
According to expert evidence the chances of finding one particle of FDR in the absence of any wrongdoing is exactly the same as finding it in the presence of wrongdoing 1/100 (because the chances of finding FDR in the pocket after a year is just as likely that it had came innocently).
The expert witness also said that the presence of FDR means nothing other than there is FDR in the pocket and how it go there is unknown. Lord Phillips CJ believed that because the expert witness had conceded that it was the same probability for innocent and guilty exposure to FDR he cannot therefore dismiss the former as more unlikely, and because he had done so it would have left the juries with an impression that the FDR particle came from the murder. According to another expert witness it is equally likely and had happened before that things were exposed to innocent contamination due to the flaws in police procedures. The true representation of the evidence was distorted; too much emphasis was disproportionately placed upon a piece of evidence that did not have the necessary probative value; the probative value was jacked up.
The Court found the conviction unsafe because even though FDR was only circumstantial evidence, and also not the basis of the prosecution's case it is uncertain how much emphasis they placed on the FDR, [[R v. Pendleton .|R v. Pendleton ]]