A sex offender sentenced to ten years behind bars has lost an appeal against his conviction.
Shuja Amon Muhammad was convicted last year of four counts of sexually exploiting a seven-year-old girl while in a position of trust on unknown dates between August 1 and September 30, 2013 after a Supreme Court trial.
The conviction was not his first — Muhammad was found guilty that same year in Magistrates’ Court of two counts of sexually exploiting an 11-year-old girl in a separate series of incidents.
He later launched an appeal against his conviction, arguing that Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves had failed to accurately summarise the defence case in his summing up and that there was an irregularity in proceedings after the jury had retired.
During a hearing on March 18, defence lawyer Peter Farge said the judge did not make reference to an admission by the complainant which could have given the girl the necessary knowledge to make up an allegation of sexual exploitation and magnified a discrepancy in the defence case.
The Court of Appeal, however, rejected those arguments, finding that the judge was not required to make reference to the “admission” because it did not feature in the submissions of Muhammad’s lawyer during the trial, and the judge had clearly left the significance of the discrepancy in the hands of the jury.
They also dismissed the “irregularity of proceedings”, which occurred after the jury asked to watch again a DVD of Muhammad’s Police interview.
Mr Justice Greaves elected to delay showing the jury the video because concerns had been raised about a section which could have been prejudicial against Muhammad.
The verdict was delivered less than half an hour later without the jury being shown the video.
The written decision of the Court of Appeal stated: “It was right for the judge to discuss the jury’s request with the attorneys.
The discussion was suitably short. It was natural that the risk of prejudice to the appellant featured in it.
“The judge’s decision to leave the request unanswered for a short while was prescient and not at all unfair. Quite the contrary; it is highly improbable that the jury would have been annoyed by the delay. They had been told by the judge that he would need to discuss any request with the attorneys before answering it, so the delay would not have been considered odd.
“The delay in any event was minimal. The guilty verdict came after a retirement which had been noticeably brief. We are entirely satisfied that there was no irregularity and that the appellant suffered no disadvantage.
“In conclusion we are convinced that the convictions are safe and that the grounds of appeal fell a long way short of casting any doubt upon them.”