Conflict of Interest
Mr. Justice Penry Davey, one of the judges at the appeal hearing, was a former pupil of William Parker School, the school where Siôn Jenkins was deputy head at the time of the murder.
He was a member of the Old Hastonians (the Old Boys’ Association) and had maintained links with the school.
In December 1997, while Siôn Jenkins was on bail awaiting trial for the murder, Mr.Justice Penry Davey was the guest of honour at the school Speech Day.
The Headteacher’s Speech Day report referred in its opening section to both Mr.Justice Penry Davey and Siôn Jenkins. It is inconceivable that Mr.Justice Penry Davey could have been unaware of the implications of the case for his old school. The emphasis was all the greater because of the highly-publicised charge of deception, which put William Parker School in the position of an aggrieved party against whom Siôn Jenkins had transgressed. Indeed, the evidence shows that the deception charge preceded the murder charge.
With his strong local connections, it is very probable that Mr. Penry Davey would have been well aware of the rulingmour and speculation which was rife in Hastings at that time.
These factors therefore made it inappropriate for him to hear the appeal.
When this issue was raised in court on 14 January 2000, Lord Justice Kennedy stated that Mr. Penry Davey had previously raised the issue with him, and he had considered it could not possibly prejudice Mr. Penry Davey’s impartiality. He dismissed as ‘absurd’ the notion that a risk of bias might exist.
However, the fact that Mr.Justice Penry Davey had himself raised the issue clearly indicates that the risk of bias did exist.
It is important to note that the Lord Chief Justice had made a ruling on 17 November 1999, only two weeks before Siôn Jenkins’ appeal was due to begin. The ruling cites a possible risk of bias or embarrassment to the judge as reasons for a judge to withdraw from a case.
In this case both conditions apply, further underlined by the fact that the deception charge technically remains on file.
As a spokesman from Liberty said of this event, it is vital that the criminal justice system should not only be fair, but should be seen to be fair.