Judges to rule on bid to overturn conviction of man found guilty after his death


Leading judges will announce their decision on a bid to overturn the child sex abuse conviction of a former boarding school worker found guilty by a jury following his suicide during his trial.

Darren Turk, 54, hanged himself while he was on trial accused of offences against boys aged between 11 and 15 at Frewen College in Northiam, East Sussex, between 1996 and 2002.

After his death, a jury at Lewes Crown Court found him guilty of 10 child sex-related offences and not guilty on six counts in what is believed to be the first time a dead man has been convicted of a crime in England.

Turk's family have criticised the decision of the trial judge to allow jurors to return verdicts after he had died.

Three judges sitting in the Court of Appeal's criminal division in London will announce their decision on an application for permission to appeal against the conviction brought by his mother Jasmine Botting, 76, from Etchingham, near Hastings, East Sussex.

At a recent hearing, Sally-Ann Hales QC, representing Mrs Botting, told Sir Brian Leveson, Mr Justice Jay and Mr Justice Garnham, that the application concerned the effect of her son's death on criminal proceedings in the Crown Court ''and in particular the validity of guilty verdicts returned by the jury after his death''.

She submitted that criminal proceedings should abate on the death of an accused at whatever stage the trial had reached.

At the conclusion of the hearing Sir Brian said the case raised a ''really important issue of criminal law''.

He said: ''We can recognise that for the victims, the pronouncement of the verdicts, at least in certain cases, was a vindication of their evidence.''

Sir Brian emphasised: ''Nothing we decide in any sense should be taken as removing their appropriate feelings of vindication.''

The question the court had to decide was whether ''as a matter of criminal law and practice, it is either justifiable or right that once a defendant has died the case should continue in any form''.

Mrs Botting has previously said: ''I know for a fact that my son is innocent.''

Unmarried Turk was a member of care staff and later head of care at the boarding school, but was not a teacher.

At the time of his death, he worked as an electrician's assistant.

At an inquest in January, a coroner heard Turk had been prescribed anti-depressants and left suicide notes before his body was found by his stepfather at home in Etchingham, in June last year.

A post-mortem examination at the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards-on-Sea confirmed cause of death was by hanging.

A coroner concluded he had taken his own life.