IN MAY 2002 Anver Daud Sheikh, a Yorkshireman whose parents came from Pakistan, found himself in York Crown Court facing allegations that he had sexually abused two boys who had been in his care in a children's home more than twenty years previously.
There was no evidence other than the testimony of the two men who made the allegations. But nor, twenty years after the alleged incidents, was Sheikh able to produce an adequate defence. Like countless other care workers trapped by similar retrospective allegations all he could say was that the offences alleged against him had never happened.
The jury, faced by two highly prejudicial complaints, one of which was an allegation of buggery, declined to believe him. He was convicted and sentenced to eight years.
Following this, one former resident of the same home, who had himself made an allegation and then retracted it, made a new statement. He said that the complainants 'were racist and saw [Sheikh] as a "Paki bastard"'. The witness added, in words almost identical to those which have been used by many many others who have been caught up in police trawling operations: 'It was easy to make the allegations . . . the officers kept encouraging us.'
Having made this statement, however, the man subsequently retracted it. Although this might have dashed Sheikh's hopes for a successful appeal, his solicitors still believe that when his appeal is heard on Thursday, his conviction will be overturned.
For the main evidence on which the appeal will be based will not be the police malpractice alleged by the witness who retracted. It will be another example of malpractice unearthed by Mark Newby, the solicitor to whom Sheikh turned after he had been convicted.
What Newby discovered when he examined the trial papers was that the full records of the home in question had never been obtained by the Crown. It was therefore clear that nobody, including the police, had ever taken the trouble to check whether the dates given at the trial for when Sheikh worked at the home were actually correct.
The first complainant had located his allegation quite specifically. He had described an incident involving another resident, 'Pete'. At this point he had already been at the home for some time. It was he said, soon after this incident that Mr Sheikh had started abusing him.
Mark Newby approached the branch of Catholic Social Services who had run the home and asked to see the full records. They showed that Anver Sheikh had stopped working at the the home soon after the first complainant had arrived in August 1980; the two had overlapped only by some four weeks. More importantly still the records clearly showed that 'Pete' had not arrived at the home until 1981, several months after Sheik had left. It was therefore apparent that the allegation which the first complainant had made could not be true.
Of his own re-investigation of the case, Mark Newby says: 'It was quick and simple. In our view the police had failed to investigate the allegations of abuse from former residents impartially. This is a very grave and fundamental error by the police and we will be calling for a thorough review of how the investigation took place.'
For solicitor Mark Newby the Sheikh appeal is but one of many similarly disturbing cases he has dealt with. Mark Newby's review of this case can be read here.
Anver Daud Sheikh [ 2004 ] . The Sheikh case was the start of a chain of Historic Appeals which turned the tide back against the Great Children Home Panic of the 1990's . In Sheikh Solicitor Mark Newby was able to conduct a forensic investigation to show that the allegations made by one of the complainants could not be true . The Crown did not oppose the appeal .
Anver Daud Sheikh [ 2006 ] . The Second Appeal showing our dogged determination even after a re-trial led to the establishment of principles over when cases should be stayed due to missing documentation . As a reuslt of our work Mr Sheikh was finally returned home not to face proceedings again .