The Case of Peter Hakala

The Case of Peter Hakala
English history is replete with examples of innocent people being imprisoned by the state. Yet, how much of the arrogance, indifference and abuse of power that facilitates this are new? None of it I am afraid. In a letter published in the prisoners newspaper ‘Inside Time’ in December 2008 Mr. Frank McVey currently housed in H.M.P. Dumfries discusses a statement attributed to the late Lord Denning – “It is better that some innocent men remain in jail than the integrity of the English legal system be impugned.”None of the Law Lords has ever dissociated themselves from the thankfully late Lord Devlin’s statement and one must assume therefore that it created no ripples of discontent or concern at all in the realms of the institutionalized aristocracy.
Their Lordships and other members of their mindset remain content to tread the corridors of power oblivious of the muck mountains of corruption piled high therein. Mr. McVey rightly indicates that Denning’s use of the word integrity makes no sense “For there is no integrity – strong moral principle-in condoning the wrongful imprisonment of another human being, not to mention the attendant unpleasant ramifications associated with such a loss of freedom.”
The sole responsibility for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice rests with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (hereafter CCRC) yet since its inception in 1997 substantial numbers of innocent people are languishing in jail, hostages of a dysfunctional judicial system.
If I were innocent of a crime of which I had been convicted one or more past or present employee of the system will know it. Witnesses and the actual perpetrator of either the crime or false allegations will of course also be very well aware. Certain among solicitors, barristers and judiciary may be aware. So will relevant police personnel.
The longer a person is imprisoned the more difficult establishing their innocence will become. One such hostage of the system is Peter Ian Hakala. First something of the background to Peter and his case then a consideration of the case itself including the issue of if one is innocent who in the system will know. This will be followed by a discussion of issues arising.
Peter is a Finnish national. At the age of fourteen he and his family left Finland for Australia and settled in Sydney in New South Wales. At that time Peter could not speak English and therefore communication with anyone was a day to day problematic and frightening experience.
Peter began taking days off school. Eventually he was placed in an institution for nine long and distressing months during which time he missed his much loved parents and sister very much. It was inevitable that rage, frustration and pain built up. Peter came into conflict with the authorities, amassed a criminal record and was eventually deportated back to Finland.
Sometime later he found his way to England and found work in the security business while lived quietly without tension with anyone. Then in 1986 the disturbing chain of events that led to Peter’s present situation began to unfold.
1986. Michael Saunders a known Australian police infomer persuades his wife to make allegations of rape against Peter which led to his arrest. Shortly after this however the allegations were withdrawn. Peter was released.
A Mrs. Avigdor subsequently contacted the same London police station. This lady spoke with the same police officer and had Peter charge with her rape again prompted by Michael Saunders . Peter is re-arrested. At his first trial, the jury fails to agree on the rape charges. A retrial is ordered, Peter is sentenced to life imprisonment with a ten year tariff. Over twenty years later he remains incarcerated. An appeal in 2002 is refused.
Who, in the system will be aware of the fact that Peter is innocent? Firstly there will be Mr. Michael L. Saunders, a known Police informer whose wife originally accused Peter of rape in 1986. At first Saunders gave his wife full support yet, it subsequently transpired that his stepson was in the house at the time and what he told Saunders did not support his wife’s version of events. Michael and Mary Saunders spoke to Detective Inspector Sheppardson from Richmond Criminal Investigation Department having decided to withdraw the allegation which had been initially lodged in order to obtain compensation money would finance their joint return to Australia.
Michael Saunders fought with his wife over this and was charged with assault. However, prior to his wife charging him Saunders spoke at significant length to D.I. Sheppardson who said he would investigate Mary’s withdrawal of allegations against Peter. After grossly exaggerating the complaints Mary had also made of assault Sheppardson had Saunders deported. Did he know Saunders’ evidence would jeopardize his case against Peter Hakala? He must have done? Saunders was deported from the U.K. on 24 July 1986.
These facts and others of relevance are detailed in Saunders letter to the Registrar at the Criminal Appeal office at the Royal Courts of Justice stamped as received on the fifth of June 1987. In this letter Saunders also states that Sheppardson “..wanted Peter Hakala convicted no matter what.”
Why this might be the case? There is also the issue of fabricated statements in general and in Peter Hakala’s case in particular.
Concerns regarding police competence and corruption are commonplace and recurring themes in criminological research. The Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure (1981) was appointed amid escalating concerns pertaining to the police role in the investigation of offences. Prominent among the involved issues has been false records of interviews as well as threats and duress during interviews. (c.f. ‘Forensic Psychology, Concepts debates and practices ed. Joanna R. Adler page 40)
Tom Williamson from Portsmouth University in Adler op.cit. quotes a report of The Policy Studies Institute in London (1983) to the effect that “..about one in ten Londoners think police officers fabricate evidence and use violence unjustifiably on people held at police stations” and the overall findings of the report suggest “…there is a complete lack of confidence in the police among at least one in ten Londoners” (Smith 1983:325)
Over the past thirty years or so fabricated statements have featured in some instances of miscarriage of justice. In 1987 Winston Silcott and two other men were convicted of murdering P.C. Keith Blakelock in the course of the riots on the Broadwater Farm estate in North London. In 1991 the three men had their convictions quashed when Electrostatic Document Analysis (ESDA) tests established that police officers had fabricated Silcott’s statement .
What of the issue of fabricated statement in Peter Hakala’s case.
On the Second of February 2005 an article written by Peter himself was published on . Peter gives details leading to his initial arrest in 1986. Following allegations of rape “I was arrested and was taken to the police statement on 6th January 1986.” Then, following a summary of subsequent events Peter points out “I did not make any more statements but strangely two other statements turned up on January 10 and 11, unsigned. I was not even in the same location when those two fabricated statements were made and I only made the January 6th statement. No forensic evidence could be linked with Peter; his case went to trial at the Central Criminal Court in London.
The jury could not agree and a retrial was ordered. This commenced at The Central Criminal Court in London on December 3rd 1986 and three days into the trial the proceedings were moved to Southwark Crown Court with Judge Butler presided.
Following Peter’s conviction two attempts at securing leave to appeal were refused then, in June 2000 the Central Criminal Review Commission (CCRC) granted referral back to the court of appeal. Here, leave for further appeal was again refused.
The eventual appeal was heard by three appeal court judges and their stated findings will comprise the framework for our further considerations. In paragraph 4 we are told that –
“The present reference by the CCRC is based on expert evidence not
available at the original trial said to cast doubt on the reliability of the
evidence of the written records of the interviews (second and third interviews)
of the appellant by the police in which he is reported to have confessed to the
offences. The CCRC directed itself to consider whether, if the results of these
new tests had been available at trial the jury “ with the knowledge of that
fresh evidence” would necessarily have come to the conclusion that they did.”
This sets the scene for the appeal. We must keep in mind that no forensic evidence, D.N.A. Semen or anything else linked Peter the rape offences that were at issue.
Section 12 rightly states that Peter is a Finish national who lived in Australia from the age of 13 years. The section goes on to point out that while in Australia Peter committed a number of offences, thirty one in all, including rape and murder. The section concludes by stating “The fact of these convictions was relevant to the conduct of his case at the Central Criminal Court. We are not otherwise entitled to take account of them.”
This is, in itself a matter of concern. If the fact of Peter’s previous convictions had relevance to the conduct of his trial why? In what way? Previous convictions will have relevance to a person’s sentence but how are they relevant to the conduct of a trial?
We move to sections 42 and 43. In 42 the allegations that investigating police officers had fabricated two statements are described as “very serious.” I state at this point that I have spoken to one the forensic document analysis experts on the telephone and been told that if Peter Hakala wrote the first of the statement he could not possibly have written the other two.
In 43 we read that “ In May 2001 junior council commented on the first trial that “due to the nature of the appellant’s previous convictions…it was agreed in consultation with Queen’s Counsel that this evidence could not be disputed. This would have involved serious allegations against the police, suggesting it was manufactured. Quite what this really amounts to is unclear, but for present purposes it is unnecessary to investigate the point further”
I find it difficult to understand why this point is not taken further. Peter Hakala had appealed against convictions for rape that occurred in this country. What is unclear to me is how Peter’s previous convictions in Australia are relevant to the conduct of his trial. Is this consistent with the “standard of fairness “ the justice system claims to be concerned for and would not the impartiality of the trial also be comprimised. The “serious allegations” clearly link with the suspect documents and Peter receiving advice to the effect that he should not question the integrity of the police as this would lead to his previous convictions becoming known.
Section 44 rightly notes that the police officers most directly involved with Peter’s case were not challenged. Yet it should be noted that Peter was under considerable stress at this time. Inevitably he would clutch at any straw handed to him. I know that Peter has since been told that, given a solicitor had given certain advice it is up the accused person whether or not he takes that advice. This clearly takes no account of the stress a person might be under often exacerbated by the investigative procedures and practices of the police.
We turn now to section 58 of the judgement. This refers to the applications made by solicitors acting on Peter Hakala’s behalf to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (Hereafter CCRC) which related to the admissions allegedly made in the contentious second and third interviews. The applications were supported by Mr. Robert Radley a forensic document examiner and Professor Graham Nixon an acknowledged expert in linguistics. The CCRC sought its own expert evidence which was supplied by two forensic document examiners namely Mr. M.G. Hall and Mr. D. Baxendale and Professor Coulthard a linguistics expert.
These two alleged statements are a major problem with the Hakala case. There is also the fact that, (Section 61) it is recorded that Hakala’s defence had informed him they could not attack the credibility of the two police officers without his own past criminal record becoming known to the jury which was perceived as being detrimental to his case. This situation was accepted by Peter Hakala at the time yet there is to be a conflict between this and contemporaneous notes made of Counsel’s advice on 26th November 1986.
For myself, not having legal training yet having a concern for Justice in a credible sense of the term for Peter Hakala there is a surprising statement in section 78. “The expert evidence does not demonstrate that the police account of admissions made in the interviews was false; more important in the present context, nor does it prove that the interview records themselves were fabricated.” In section 79 it is stated “ Mr. Radley’s evidence was not sufficient on its own to demonstrate fabrication of the interviews”
For myself, I am left with the following questions among others –
1) Why is no mention made of Professor Nixon’s findings to the effect that of Peter Hakala had made the first statement he “could not possibly have made the other two”?
2) Why does Peter Hakala himself state he has never seen the other two statements and has no actual idea of their content ?
3) Why was no other incriminating forensic evidence relating to rape ever found?
4) Why was it not made clear to Peter Hakala that his past criminal record relating to Australia has no relevance to offences allegedly committed in England and, contrary to the opinion of the appeal judges it should not have had relevance to the conduct of his trial. It is the two counts of rape that are at issue and nothing else.
5) How much of Peter Hakala’s behavior and actions at his first trial and retrial can be related to stress and unhelpful advice?
6) Is there any record anywhere in the trial and appeal proceedings of one of the police officers involved had a disciplinary record that contained occasions of fabricating evidence?
7) What notice has been taken of Michael Saunders assertion that the officer concerned seemed to be determined to convict Peter Hakala at all costs.
8) Professor Nixon’s findings, mentioned earlier introduce doubt into the scenario that has not been addressed. In the interest of justice should not the benefit of the doubt be given to Peter Hakala?
These are just some among others of the questions that arise for me. Yet I submit these points alone raise doubt as to the safety of Peter’s conviction

The Case of Peter Hakala

George Coombs

Brighton and Hove, United Kingdom

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I am writing a book concerning my activitie among people in prison and this is part one of Peter Hakala’s chapter

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