Ten Years On
On 9 February 2006 the Crown Prosecution Service issued this press release:
The acquittal of Sion Jenkins for the murder of his foster daughter, Billie-Jo Jenkins, has brought to an end one of the most difficult cases Sussex Crown Prosecution Service has handled. Sussex Chief Crown Prosecutor, Mrs Sarah Jane Gallagher, said: “This is the third time Sion Jenkins has faced trial for murder and after hearing all the evidence the jury has not been able to reach a decision. The role of the CPS is to apply the Code for Crown Prosecutors; that is to examine the evidence and determine whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction and whether it is in the public interest to bring criminal proceedings. I am satisfied that the CPS fulfilled its duty under the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the decision to take Mr Jenkins to a second retrial was correct. The CPS has considered the case again as a whole and decided Sion Jenkins should not face a further retrial. He has therefore been formally acquitted.I would like to commend the witnesses for their courage in being prepared to come to court once again to give evidence. Our thoughts today are, of course, with Billie-Jo's family.” CPS Press Statement 09/02/2006
On 10 February 2006 the BBC News reported that a police review panel would be convened to discuss how the case should be taken forward.
In December 2006, BBC journalist John Humphrys asked on a Radio 4 Today programme if the murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins is still being investigated. The answer Bob Woffinden gave him was “Ask Sussex Police”.
What are Sussex police doing to re-investigate the murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins? The answer is — nothing. By this means, in time honoured fashion, they are implying that there is no one else they should be looking for.
In this case, though, such inertia will not do, because there is continuing public concern that Billie-Jo’s killer remains undetected. Even though Sussex police are keeping their heads down and hoping the whole thing will simply go away, it will not.
- To date Sussex police have done nothing to move on the search for Billie-Jo’s killer.
- Their position to date has been unhelpful.
- Twelve years after Billie-Jo’s brutal death her killer has escaped detection.
The truth of the matter is that Sussex police and the Crown Prosecution Service spent a vast amount of public money on an apparently obsessive determination to pursue a flawed and flimsy case against a man they had decided must be guilty. Their certainty sprang into being in the early days of the investigation before all the evidence had been fully examined and while they were under intense pressure, due to public anxiety, to achieve a quick arrest and conviction.
From the very start, innuendo and half truths were disseminated through the media to influence public opinion, raising many concerns about the possibility of a fair trial.
Sussex Police should now stop implying they were right all the time, leave Siôn Jenkins in peace to rebuild his life, and acknowledge their serious responsibility to bring the real killer to justice.
Their present position is indefensible; their duty is clear.
A matter of corporate amnesia.
Siôn Jenkins did not kill Billie-Jo.
Someone else did, though. That person is still free today, and will remain so unless Sussex police do something about it.
It is not hard to understand why both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are reluctant to admit to this simple but uncomfortable truth.
No-one at local or national level wants to be held accountable for the failure to find Billie-Jo’s killer after the almost unprecedented publicity surrounding the case. It is easier to hope that some of the mud already thrown will stick, and that a firm refusal to look any further will somehow mean the end of the matter. This, though, is just cynical evasion.
A number of reputations are at stake. The Crown Prosecution Service has not emerged with credit from the Jenkins case. Sussex police is a force keen to move on from its embarrassing history. And then there is at least one now-prominent individual who was instrumental in the saga of incompetence which characterised the original investigation.
Over time they have had to pay out major compensation awards, such as those to Linda Watson and the family of the late James Ashley. The Jenkins case has already cost an estimated £10m. of public money, lavished on a prosecution case which was generally regarded as weak from the outset, yet pursued to almost incredible lengths. There were three very costly and highly-publicised prosecution cases. They were all flawed, inconsistent and ultimately unsuccessful
There is no doubt that it would suit many for these inconvenient memories to fade from the public mind.
Standing outside the Old Bailey after his acquittal, Siôn Jenkins said:
Billie-Jo’s murderer has escaped detection because of the dreadful errors in the police investigation and their single-minded and desperate determination to convict me at all costsÖ The murder investigation must be reopened immediately with a new police team who will put all their energies into finding Billie-Jo’s killer.
Sadly, if predictably, nothing at all has happened.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips referred to the “serious and systemic failures” of Sussex police during the time they were investigating the Jenkins case and other failed high profile cases. Accountability for such failures remains a live issue.
The time has now come to confront the disturbing reality of what took place in Sussex during the late 1990s, under a regime which cared less about justice than about protecting its own.
This campaign calls on the Chief Constable of Sussex to make a statement about what action is to be taken, and when. For him to sweep this case under the carpet after all that has happened would be a failure of integrity and an insult to the memory of Billie-Jo Jenkins.