“Supergrass” seeks to argue personality disorder renders his conviction unsafe

The Lord Chief Justice heard fresh expert psychiatric and psychological evidence on 4th and 5th June as part of Bruce Childs’ application for leave to appeal. Childs – who is serving a full life term - had confessed and pleaded guilty in 1979 to six contract killings and turned Queens Evidence in a high profile trial at the Central Criminal Court against men who were said to be notorious criminals. The prosecution said at the time that had it not been for his confession there would be no evidence against him. Rebecca Trowler QC and Richard Thomas of Doughty Street Chambers act for Childs, instructed by Michael Purdon Solicitors. An expert instructed at the time of the trial on behalf of the defendant against whom he was giving evidence concluded that he had a personality disorder, but the trial judge refused to admit this evidence, a reflection of the more narrow approach at the time to the admissibility of the evidence of psychologists. They were convicted but, following a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, their convictions were quashed in R v MacKenny and Pinfold [2004] 2 Cr App R 5. In that case, the Lord Chief Justice at the time said “Childs’ evidence is so unreliable that it is worthless”. Mr Childs now seeks to argue that his anti-social and narcissistic personality disorder, whilst it did not render him unfit to plead, nonetheless meant that his conviction is unsafe. The Court heard live evidence from four leading experts as to the severity and impact of the personality disorder and psychopathy. The application raises important issues about the limited application of the fitness to plead jurisdiction and the requirement of the Court of Appeal to address the “safety” of a conviction where a plea was on the face of it voluntary and where there was no criticism of the Crown Court procedure.


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