Date: 11 Oct 1997
Matthew Hockley was stabbed in a fight at the Fox and Hounds pub in Chingford.
He had been at the pub watching England play Italy in the 1998 World Cup after which there was coverage of the Prince Naseem and Chris Eubanks boxing match.
Two brothers were tried for his murder but acquitted. The younger brother was acquitted at the direction of the judge after the prosecution case was heard and the older brother, who was a former heavyweight boxer, was cleared by the jury.
The older brother tried for Matthew Hockley's murder at the Old Bailey admitted that he had been at the Fox and Hounds pub and had exchanged a few blows in a fight with Matthew Hockley there, but denied stabbing him.
Matthew Hockley had been stabbed in the thigh resulting in his femoral artery being severed.
It was heard that Matthew Hockley was a cocaine user and had been mouthing off and offering to fight the man charged with his murder because the man was an ex-amateur boxer. The man said that as they were getting up to leave the pub at closing time Matthew Hockley challenged him again and he lost his temper and hit him with a good punch. He said that it was just a short punch up which was quickly broken up and that there were about ten people around Matthew Hockley that could have stabbed him.
A man that had gone to the aid of Matthew Hockley was also cut in the hand by a knife and the brothers on trial were also cleared of wounding him with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The case was later raised in Parliament by a Member of Parliament who pressed for some action in cases where the prosecution had failed, such as he inferred the case against the two men that were tried for the murder of Matthew Hockley had done. He pointed out that in the trial the original Queen's counsel, who had started the case with the Crown Prosecution Service, was unable to take the case to court because of other commitments and had been replaced by a new QC seven days before the trial which he said was not long enough for him to have become familiar with the case. The Member of Parliament questioned why the case was not postponed so that the prosecution could become better acquainted with the details and stated that that represented a failure in the way the prosecution was handled.
The Member of Parliament gave some examples of how the prosecution had failed through being unfamiliar with the details stating firstly the fact that after being charged, but before the trial, the two brothers had absconded but were later brought back in to custody by the police. He said that the police said that they had absconded for three weeks but said that at the trial it was heard that they had only been absent for a matter of days and that the statement to that effect was unchallenged by the prosecution.
He also pointed out that at the trial the brothers had said that they had left Matthew Hockley in the pub and that at that time he was still sitting happily in a chair smoking and said that that statement was unchallenged by the prosecution as there was apparently evidence to indicate that at the time they left the pub Matthew Hockley was already dead, or very seriously wounded, and the that the brothers were throwing bottles and chairs at him.
The Member of Parliament said that he had other examples of the prosecutions failure but would not dwell on them all.
He also pointed out that before the trial the Crown Prosecution Service had told Matthew Hockley's family that the case was 99.5% certain to result in a conviction, but that after the acquittal of the two brothers the Crown Prosecution Service seemed to have distanced themselves from the statement and denied making it and to have then inferred that they never felt that the case would come to a conviction. The Member of Parliament said that that was strange as he could not imagine why the Crown Prosecution Service would prosecute a case if they didn't think that it would be successful.
The Member of Parliament also noted that at the trial several people, including prosecution witnesses gave evidence that was different to that which they had made in their original statements to the police which also undermined the case and questioned how such a thing could happen.
The Member of Parliament said that when he contacted the Attorney General about the issue the Attorney General was genuinely sympathetic and had said to him in a letter, 'It is important to remember that the decisions of police and CPS were based on the statements that were taken from the witnesses not the evidence that they gave in court which departed from their statements'. In return the Member of Parliament said, 'One is left wondering why that was not ascertained before trial. How can one go to trial in such a case and not try to discover whether the witnesses will back up their statements or are likely to agree with what they said at the time when they were interviewed?'.
The Member of Parliament then brought up the issue of the inability of Matthew Hockley's family to find redress over the issues resulting from the prosecutions failure to carry out their job properly and then referred to a number of other cases were similar failings had resulted in acquittals and asked Parliament for some sort of mechanism where families of murder victims could have some form of redress noting that the inability for relatives to deal with a failure as he inferred in the case of Matthew Hockley's murder created a terrible sense of injustice and said that that could lead to other problems in the future.
The Member of Parliament concluded that it was clear that not all prosecutions would succeed but said that when they fail, not because of the innocence of the accused but because of the prosecutions failures then that failure needed to be dealt with such that justice could be seen to be done. The Member of Parliament said, 'My worry is that if the Hockley case and other cases become known as the norm outside the House, and if newspapers represent them as real failures, ordinary men and women will think seriously about taking the law into their own hands. None of us in this place wants that. Any Government need to face that situation and find some way to deal with the anger and concern. I quickly examined the number of cases tried in the Crown courts where there were no guilty pleas and the cases were contested. There were about 22,229 during 1998-99, with 11,561 convictions. Therefore, there was a failure to secure convictions in 8,668 cases, about 43 percent of those brought to trial. There were 8,668 Matthew Hockley relatives; 8,668 cases that make people wonder on whose side the system is'.
The Member of Parliament then went on to say, 'It is probably a conservative estimate that about £3.5 million is spent on failure. That should wake us up to the real failure that the system represents. No Government can possibly allow that situation to continue if they have any belief in the criminal justice system, as I do. I believe that we still have a great criminal justice system. It is still a system where justice can be found. However, I am afraid that ordinary men and women will find themselves so worried about the outcomes of serious cases that they may end up trying to take the law into their own hands. Now is the time for the Government to face that. Surely now is the time for them to make clear observations and statements of policy and deal with the matter'.
Matthew Hockley's murder remains unsolved.