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United Kingdom: Court dismisses paedophile’s human rights complaint

Today, judges have rejected a human rights challenge from a paedophile convicted in the United Kingdom, who alleged that his trial was tainted by ethnic discrimination and anti-Muslim bias.

In its decision in the case of Ahmed v. the United Kingdom (application no. 57645/14) the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final.

The case concerned the trial and conviction of Shabir Ahmed, who had been accused of being a member of a paedophile gang operating in Bolton (the U.K.). After standing trial with ten others in 2012, Ahmed was convicted on a variety of counts (including conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children), and sentenced to 19 years in prison.

The case was the subject of considerable media attention, as well as protests by the British National Party (“BNP”) and the English Defence League (“EDL”). Whilst the jury’s deliberations were still ongoing, Nick Griffin MEP (as he then was) tweeted about their alleged verdict, and posts about the jury’s supposed conclusions appeared on webpages linked to far-right groups.

Ahmed claimed that this demonstrated that the jury had been biased against him, because the information had been (allegedly) disseminated by the jury to far-right groups that had been hostile to the defendants.

Ahmed also complained of various other violations of his human rights: including that the case against him had been tailored by police to fit anti-Muslim prejudice; that media coverage of the trial had made it unfair, and had also infringed his right to a private and family life; and that he had been discriminated against on grounds of race and religion.

The court found no evidence to support any of Ahmed’s claims. In particular, in regard to Ahmed’s complaint that the jury was biased, the court (agreeing with the investigations of both the trial judge and the Criminal Cases Review Commission (“the CCRC”)) found no evidence that it was the jury which had passed information to far-right groups,.

Furthermore, the court attached particular weight to the assessment conducted by the Court of Appeal, which is especially well placed to determine whether a trial involved unfairness (because of its knowledge and experience of jury trials). The court agreed with the Court of Appeal’s finding that there were six particular safeguards present at the trial, which were enough to ensure that the jury had been impartial.

The court also identified six further safeguards present in the proceedings as a whole, which gave further assurances of the absence of partiality.

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