A jury has cleared an Oxford law graduate of their role in last summer’s London riots, after taking just 30 minutes to find him not guilty.
The accused, Fahim Alam, was arrested on day two of the riots after police believed he was part of a fifty-strong crowd on Mare Street in Hackney. The crowd had attacked police on that day, throwing bricks and bottles and setting off fireworks. At one stage during the unrest, a pit bull dog was unleashed and ran to attack officers in full riot gear.
Mr Alam, who also has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, received extensive television coverage at the time, with his story appearing on the front page of several newspapers.
The court heard how Mr Alam had just finished his first day at a new job in Bethnal Green on August 8th 2011. He was walking from his new place of work to his grandmother’s house, a route which took him to Mare Street at around 6pm. There, the unrest was already well underway, with rioters and police facing up to one another.
A police officer, Ben Sparks, gave evidence that he had watched Mr Alam on his arrival into the crowd at Mare Street. The officer claimed that he stood out as he was wearing an Arabic ‘shemagh’, a distinctive scarf.
The officer gave evidence that he had watched Mr Alam for some 25 minutes or more, before seeing him pick up a rock, and throw it at officers. The rock was said to have hit an officer on the leg, causing him to stumble to the ground.
Mr Alam was represented in court by Imran Khan, the solicitor who acted for the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence. Mr Khan’s case centred on how the police officer could have been so sure that he had seen Mr Alam throw a rock from a large crowd such a long way away. This was made even more difficult because the situation was fast-moving and there were numerous distractions.
Mr Khan said he had never seen a verdict returned so quickly in such a case.
“They should have paid greater attention to the weakness of the identification evidence and realised how difficult it was. I have never had a jury come back that quickly with their verdict before, which shows you how weak it was,” he said.
Speaking after being acquitted, Mr Alam said that being arrested and held in custody for six weeks, and then being released on electronic tag was like being kidnapped. He was initially held for 48 hours then was taken to court to face a magistrate at 3am during a specially convened riot sitting.
Read more on the story (The Guardian)
Going to court as a defendant (FIndLaw)
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