George Davis (armed robber)

George Davis (armed robber)

Infobox Criminal
subject_name = George Davis

image_size = 200 px
image_caption =
date_of_birth = 1941
place_of_birth =
date_of_death =
place_of_death =
alias =
conviction = Armed robbery (3 times)
penalty = 20 years (released under Prerogative of Mercy) 6 years third sentence unknown
status =
occupation = Driver
spouse = Rose Marie Dean (div.1976) Second wife, name unknown
parents =
children = Deana & Ricky

George Davis (born 1941) was an armed robber in the United Kingdom, who became widely known through a very successful campaign by friends and supporters to free him from prison after his wrongful conviction in March 1975 for an armed payroll robbery at the London Electricity Board (LEB) offices in Ilford on 4 April 1974. The conviction was based solely on the unreliable use of identification evidence, in the absence of any other evidence connecting him with the crime. Following his release Davis went on to be jailed for two other cases of armed robbery.

The London Electricity Board robbery

The robbery for which Davis was convicted was very aggravated involving a long chase, with numerous vehicles commandeered and numbers of the robbers injured. Unusually the initial payroll attack was photographed by undercover police officers and eye witness descriptions, alleged identifications and individual robbery "roles" were predicated against those photographic records to further complicate and confound the subsequent identification evidence on which the criminal prosecution relied.

The evidence

A number of blood samples (matching different blood groups) were recovered and formed part of the prosecution case. Of four accused, only Davis was convicted. At a number of very specific locations Davis was identified but the blood obtained from the location did not match his blood. Neither did the blood match any of his co-accused.

A further complication turned on the fact that Davis might never have been committed for trial from the lower courts (and therefore convicted) had the above blood test results been disclosed at that committal stage. Although it subsequently became clear that the evidence had by then become available to police it was suppressed and this abuse of due process became one of the core allegations heavily relied upon by those campaigning for Davis's release:

"The blood samples taken from ... Davis ... at Walthamstowe on 18 May 1974 were passed on to the Yard's Senior Scientific Officer, Peter Martin, on 21 May and he reported his negative findings to the police officer in charge of the case on 20 June. At as late as November 1974 on a third bail application, this time before a judge in chambers, and after commitals had been completed (October 28) the police were saying that they still awaited the blood results from forensic." ["Fitting Up George Davis", "UPAL MAGAZINE. Issue 9". August 1975 p 12]

Campaign for Release

Public activism

On August 19, 1975, while Davis was serving a 20 year prison sentence for the Ilford LEB robbery the pitch at the Headingley cricket ground was dug up by his supporters, preventing further play in the test match between England and Australia. [cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=1975: Davis campaigners stop Test match | date= | publisher= | url = | work =BBC | pages = | accessdate = 2008-09-21 | language = ] This dramatic direct action protest by relatives and friends of George Davis was accompanied by typical Davis Campaign graffiti proclaiming "FREE GEORGE DAVIS ... JUSTICE FOR GEORGE DAVIS ... GEORGE DAVIS IS INNOCENT ... SORRY IT HAD TO (BE) DONE". Three men and one woman went on trial in relation to this incident, and one, Peter Chappell was eventually jailed for eighteen months. The Davis campaigners who were remanded to prison to await trial for the Headingley sabotage continued their campaigning in support of one another within the prison system. Geraldine Hughes, the female accused, refused to accept bail until it had also been granted to all of her co-accused.

Celebrity support

Roger Daltrey of The Who was seen onstage in 1975 wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "George Davis Is Innocent". "George Davis is Innocent" was also a song on Sham 69's 1978 debut album "Tell Us the Truth". Davis also received a namecheck in a Duran Duran song entitled "Friends of Mine" on the album "Duran Duran" (1981): the chorus begins "Georgie Davis is coming out".

Media sympathy

Before Chappell's 1976 trial and conviction there was significant sympathetic media criticism of the decision by the courts to refuse bail to various of the Headingley defendants (for example Daily Telegraph editorial "WHEN TO GIVE BAIL". 28 August 1975) and eventually bail was granted to all of them. Bail conditions were exceptionally stringent and denied the four Headingley accused the right to discuss Davis' wrongful conviction in public.

Related campaigns

Importantly, the original Campaign to free Davis overlapped with and variously influenced (and was in turn influenced by) other criminal justice campaigns in London, most particularly the Free George Ince Campaign. Ince, another London victim of identification evidence was also eventually freed. Although the "EAST END SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN...TO STOP EAST END FIT UPS" (October 1975, UPAL/INCE Campaign political poster) had pre-dated the Davis Campaign it went on to develop in parallel with it.

Both campaigns had significant support from experienced London political activists who had a history of organizing radical defence campaigns around the criminal justice system. In particular, among these core activists (who had supported and helped organise "defence campaigns" in connection with The Angry Brigade arrests and criminal prosecutions) were a number who went on to establish "Up Against The Law" (UPAL) a London based "political collective". This Collective publicised the Ince case ["Setting Up George – Ince by Ince", "UPAL Magazine No. 7". Nov/Dec 1974] and went on to produce the most detailed publicly available investigation of the 1974 Davis Case Armed Robbery. ["Fitting Up George Davis", "UPAL MAGAZINE. Issue 9". August 1975 pp 6>22]

In September 1975 Peter Chappell, awaiting trial in prison for the August 1975 Headingley sabotage wrote to UPAL -

"When this campaign started 18 months ago I was completely on my own and, if the truth were known, I was probably being labeled as a well meaning nut case, even in EAST LONDON with no friends at all that I could seriously talk to about Davis’ case… I value UPAL’S help a great deal … I thought that I must find other people and that if I make sacrifices then sooner or later others would join the fight…. George Davis is not on his own any more thanks to people like you. There are more things twixt life and death than a pound note"

A number of UPAL's core activists, involved with both the Davis and Ince Campaigns, had also had late '60's early 70's activist connections with the "RELEASE COLLECTIVE". [Jackie Leishman, "Underground offers do-it-yourself law". "The Guardian". 2 March 1973. p10]


However, in May 1976, despite a then recent Court of Appeal decision (11 December 1975) not to overturn Davis' criminal conviction, the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, on completion of a police review of the case, agreed to recommend the release of Davis (without further referral back to the Court of Appeal) by Exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy because of doubts over the evidence presented by the police which helped convict him; this was highly exceptional.

At the time of Davis' release former Home Office Minister Alex Lyon wrote at some length to explain the genuine difficulties he had faced in seeking to resolve the constitutional difficulties he saw as preventing Davis's release from a conviction that he had regarded as unsafe. [The Guardian newspaper (12 May 1976 - "Is the system guilty"]

According to BBC Radio 4 documentary ["Free George Davis" 6 December 2006] although Davis was released because his conviction was deemed to be "unsafe" by the Home Secretary he extraordinarily held that Davis was not held to be "innocent". The period of official embargo on the release to the Public Records Office of official papers, related to the 1976 decision to free Davis, has now been extended by 20 years until 2026.

However, according to a report in "The Independent" newspaper written by the paper's Law Editor, Robert Verkaik, Davis and one of his original trial barristers, Mr David Whitehouse, now a QC, intend to make representations to the Criminal Cases Review Commission in the hope that they can return to court citing new evidence and establish Davis's innocence and seek compensation for his period of imprisonment. [cite news | first=Robert | last=Verkaik | coauthors= | title=George Davis is still innocent, OK: after 30 years, ex-con back in court to clear name | date=10 February 2007 | publisher= | url = | work =The Independent | pages = | accessdate = 2008-09-21 | language = ]

Further robberies

In 1978, two years after his release from prison, Davis was jailed again, having pleaded guilty to involvement in another armed robbery on 23 Sept. 1977 at The Bank of Cyprus, Seven Sisters Road. Having completed that sentence in 1984, he was jailed yet again in 1987 for a further offence. Davis admitted his guilt for both of these robberies. [cite news | first=Robert | last=Verkaik | coauthors= | title=George Davis is still innocent, OK: after 30 years, ex-con back in court to clear name | date=10 February 2007 | publisher= | url = | work =The Independent | pages = | accessdate = 2008-09-21 | language = ]

Personal life

Some time after his (1976) release from prison Davis separated from his first wife Rose, and some years later married the daughter of a North London police Chief Inspector. [Robert Verkaik (Law Editor)The Independent (10.02.2007). " still innocent, OK: After 30 years, ex-con back in court to clear name".]


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