John Rodney Francis Berry

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Person.png John Rodney Francis BerryRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(marine commando, businessman)
Victim of • Alan Feraday
• Miscarriage of Justice
John Berry was imprisoned for "terrorism" offences. His conviction relied on the evidence of discredited 'expert witness' Alan Feraday. It was quashed following lengthy legal proceedings and after Berry had already served 4 years in prison.

John Rodney Francis Berry is a former marine commando, and businessman.

Note: John Rodney Francis Berry is NOT the former British Army [SIGINT] operator and whistleblower John Berry, who was prosecuted in the 1978 ABC Official Secrets Acts case [1]. Wikispooks apologises to Mr Berry and his family for distress caused by the previous incorrect publication of information about him on this page.

On 25 May 1983, John Berry was sentenced to 8 years in prison after being convicted of "terrorism". The case revolved around electronic timers, which Berry had supplied to a Syrian customer. The prosecution claimed that the devices were specifically designed for terrorist purposes and supplied in the knowledge that they would be used by terrorists. The Crown case relied largely on expert witness Alan Feraday, who told Chelmsford Crown Court:

"As a result of an examination of the timing device I came to the conclusion that it was specifically designed and constructed for a terrorist purpose, that is to say to be attached to an explosive device."

On 28 September 1993, Lord Chief Justice Taylor overturned Berry's conviction,[2] stating:

The trial judge, in summing up, did not convey that the jury had to be sure that the maker intended the timer to be used to cause explosions. The judge also failed to deal adequately with the defence that the explosive substance was made for a 'lawful object'.[3]


John Berry was the oldest of forensic expert Alan Feraday's high profile cases when the former Royal Marine Commando was prosecuted in 1983. He was charged with an offence under section 4 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883, namely the making of a number of electronic timers in such circumstances as gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that they were not made for a lawful object. At the trial the Crown had alleged that Berry's company was selling electronic timers that were designed and intended for use by terrorists to construct time bombs. Berry claimed they had been supplied to the Syrian government and that they had numerous uses including for airport landing lights. But Judge Greenwood was swayed by the Crown's lone expert witness, Alan Feraday who stated: "I am of the opinion that they have most probably been specifically designed and constructed for terrorist purposes. I am unable to contemplate their use other than in a bombing context."

Conviction quashed then restored

On 26 March 1984 the Court of Appeal (Dunn L.J., Stacker and Jupp JJ.) [1984] 1 W.L.R. 824 allowed Berry's appeal and quashed the conviction.

On 29 November 1984 the House of Lords (Lord Fraser of Tullybelton, Lord Scarman, Lord Diplock, Lord Roskill and Lord Brandon of Oakbrook) [1985] A.C. 246 ordered that the decision of the Court of Appeal be reversed and Berry's conviction be restored. During the proceedings in the House of Lords Berry absconded to Spain. On 24 February 1989 Berry was expelled by the Spanish authorities and arrested at London airport.

Second appeal adjourned

On 12 October 1989 the Court of Appeal (Watkins L.J., Tucker and Morland JJ.) adjourned Berry's appeal against sentence, pending an application that the Court could hear an appeal against conviction on grounds of appeal which had been argued but not decided in the Court of Appeal and which remained undecided by the House of Lords.[4]

Second quashing

After a reference by Home Secretary Michael Howard, the Court of Appeal finally quashed John Berry's conviction on 28 September 1993. The decision is reported at R v Berry (No.3) [1995] 1 WLR 7.[5] The Court of Appeal heard fresh evidence from four experts, including Major Lewis and Dr Michael Scott, and stated that each of them disagreed with Alan Feraday’s "extremely dogmatic conclusion" about the timers, which they each felt were timers and nothing more, and which could be put to a variety of uses. In particular, whereas the absence of an inbuilt safety device in the timers might exclude their use by Western armies, the same could not be said of armies in the Middle East. Accordingly the verdict could not be considered safe. Their views were summed up by Dr John Wyatt who had served 23 years in the Royal Engineers, spending much of his time in bomb disposal and counter-terrorist operations, and rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He said:

"As far as I am concerned this is only a timer, nothing else."[6]

It was agreed that Mr Feraday’s evidence had effectively been unchallenged at trial, as the only defence expert witness had accepted that he lacked experience in terrorist weaponry. It was Mr Feraday’s testimony that the timers made by Mr Berry could have been designed only for use by terrorists to cause explosions and as such it was critical to the conviction. He excluded non-explosive uses such as surveillance and lighting and suggested that legitimate armies would not use such timers because of the lack of an inbuilt safety device. As Michael Tierney described it in his amazing 2005 Herald article, Alan Feraday’s assertion was that “the absence of safety devices in the timers prevented their use for legitimate purposes.” Mr Berry was sentenced to eight years for arming Arab terrorists, later reduced to six. He served less than four before he was released, Tierney reports, but was left legally guilty in his broken life.[7]

The UK Home Office agreed to pay compensation from the public purse[When?] to Berry because he was jailed on the erroneous evidence of Alan Feraday.[8] Lord Chief Justice Lord Taylor of Gosforth noted that his evidence had been expressed in terms that were "dogmatic in the extreme" and that in future Feraday should not be allowed to present himself as an expert in the field of electronics.[9] Nevertheless, Alan Feraday was called by Scottish Lord Advocate Colin Boyd as the main expert witness in June 2000 as the Lockerbie bombing trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands where Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted.