The applicant, Shabir Ahmed, is a British national who was born in 1953 and is detained in HMP Wakefield. Mr Ahmed was accused of being part of a group of men in Bolton that groomed young women for sexual purposes. He stood trial with ten others in 2012.
The proceedings were the subject of significant media attention. Some, including the British National Party and the English Defence League, attributed a racial dimension to the case, given that the defendants were of Asian origin, and the complainants were not. The BNP protested at the preliminary court hearings. For these reasons, prospective jurors who had indicated in a jury questionnaire that they were associated with the BNP or EDL were excluded from the proceedings.
In May 2012 Mr Ahmed was convicted by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court on a variety of counts, including conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Whilst the jury’s deliberations were still ongoing, posts about their conclusions had appeared on webpages linked to far-right groups. The Chairman of the BNP at the time, Nick Griffin MEP, had also tweeted that some of the defendants had been found guilty, well before the jury had announced their verdicts in court.
Mr Ahmed claimed that the jury had disseminated information about their deliberations directly to far-right organisations hostile to the defendants, and that this demonstrated that the jury had been biased. He appealed against his conviction. However, his appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 1 April 2014, on the grounds that the evidence did not suggest that a juror had deliberately disseminated the information; that, though it was possible that deliberations had been overheard outside the jury room, such accidental disclosure by the jury did not mean that their independence had been compromised; and that there was not a real possibility that the jury had been biased or impartial.
Relying in particular on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention, Mr Ahmed complains that the jury which tried and convicted him was biased. His allegations also include the claim that the case against him was tailored by police to fit anti-Muslim prejudice; the claim that media coverage of the trial had made it unfair, and had also infringed his right to a private and family life; and the claim that he had been discriminated against on grounds of race and religion.
Press release ECHR 293 (2016) 23/09/2016