Man’s sex act conviction is thrown out on appeal

Geoffrey Hall
Geoffrey Hall

A SHEFFIELD man who spent five months in prison after he was found guilty of exposing himself to a young girl as she walked to school has been freed after his conviction was overturned on appeal.

Geoffrey Arthur Hall, aged 49, of Ashfurlong Road, Dore, was jailed for 18 months in August last year after jurors found him guilty of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child after a girl claimed she saw the father-of-two performing a sex act while naked as she walked past his home.

The girl, who cannot be identified, claimed he opened his net curtains to flash at her and then came out of his front door and pointed at his genitals.

But Mr Hall, who always denied the offence, was cleared and freed at London’s Court of Appeal when judges agreed his conviction was “unsafe”.

They refused to order a retrial, stating that it would be “undesirable to both parties to have to go through this again”.

Mr Hall’s barrister, Mark Barlow, told the Appeal Court judges the conviction was unsafe because the judge in the case – Michael Murphy QC – had misdirected the jury when summing up all the evidence in the case.

He said the judge did not emphasise to the jurors the importance of Mr Hall’s clean criminal record and may have influenced the jury by referring to the alleged victim as a “very bright girl”.

The court also heard the judge had made an unclear reference to the “scales of justice” when advising the jury on the case.

Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Judge Andrew Patience QC, quashed the conviction and granted Mr Hall his freedom.

He told the court: “The good character direction in this case was watered down from the start by the comments which we have heard.

“At best the weighing scales analogy was confusing but, of all cases, this was one in which a positive, clear and straight-forward direction was required.

“The circumstances did not require or permit the complexity and obscurity of the direction which, in our judgement, was indicated.

“There is a real risk that the jury did not approach the good character evidence as they should have done had they received an appropriate direction. For that reason… the conviction is unsafe.”

The judges also ordered that the £2,500 Mr Hall paid in prosecution costs should be handed back to him.

Mr Hall, who was in court for the appeal, showed little emotion as the judge gave the court’s decision but a number of his family and friends, who sat at the back of the court, wept with joy.