Care worker wins appeal – sentence reduced

January 24, 2004

The offences were all committed against children in care at the Riverside children’s home near Uttoxeter between 1981 and 1985.A jury cleared Hopkins of one charge of rape, one of indecency with a child, and three further indecent assaults.After a two-hour hearing at London’s Appeal Court, Lord Justice Pill dismissed the 61-year-old’s conviction appeal but went on to reduce his 12 year term to 10 years.The judge, sitting with Mr Justice Aikens and Mr Justice Gray, said the court would give reasons for both rulings at a later date.Attacking the convictions as “unsafe” Hopkins’ counsel, Ray Wigglesworth, said one of the alleged victims – referred to as JH – had “lied in her evidence” by claiming she hadn’t made a claim for compensation and “never intended to do so”.She later admitted having begun a damages claim after she was confronted with a letter from her own solicitor to this effect, said the barrister.There had also been a “massive trawling exercise” before the trial, in which the police placed newspaper advertisements “asking for former residents to come forward for interview”, added Mr Wigglesworth.Mr Wigglesworth said there was evidence which “suggested collusion”, with the possibility that some “complainants” may have spent time together and compared notes between leaving Riverside and the start of Hopkins’ trial.He also criticised the trial judge’s summing-up on the possibility of collusion, focusing on one statement in which the judge instructed the jury: “Even if you decide that considerations like that may have played a part, it does not necessarily mean their evidence is not believable”.Mr Wigglesworth said the correct direction would have been for the judge to emphasise that “their evidence would be worthless if there was evidence of collusion”.The judges did not indicate when they will give their reasons for dismissing Hopkins’ conviction appeal but allowing his appeal against sentence.A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: “The grounds for appeal were not based on the investigation process, which has been both thorough and robust throughout.”The allegations were properly investigated and the evidence placed before the court for its decision.”We duly acknowledge the decision of the Court of Appeal today.”

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