Monday evening 13th August on BBC 1 at 8.30 pm Panorama ~ Justice Denied: The Greatest Scandal? The programme is to look at the trial of the Police Officers which arose in connection with the Cardiff Three murder case. The trial ended in 2011 when Mr Justice Sweeney decided that they could not receive a fair trial.
The train of events began with the murder, in 1988, of Lynette White. In 1990, three men were convicted of that murder. They were Stephen Miller, Tony Paris and the late Yusef Abdullahi. They became known as "The Cardiff Three." Their convictions were quashed in 1992 - reported at (1993) 97 Cr App R 99.
The quashing of the convictions of all three men rested on the oppressive manner in which Mr Miller’s admission to the crime was obtained.
According to notes from the appeal, officers shouted, bullied and hectored him during the interview, and made it clear that they would continue to question him until they “got it right”. He denied his involvement over 300 times. It was stated that “the length of the interviews was oppressive for someone of normal mental capacity and the suspect was adjudged to be on the borderline of mental handicap”. In determining the admissibility of the confession, the trial judge heard only part of the taped interview. This made his ruling wrong and, in the absence of other reliable evidence, Miller’s conviction was overturned. Since the jury might have been prejudiced by Miller’s confession, the convictions of the other two defendants were also unsafe.
In 2003, Jeffrey Gafoor was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Lynette White. Gafoor pleaded guilty to the murder.
In 2011, eight Police Officers stood trial for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice but the trial ended as a result of the ruling by Mr Justice Sweeney. The Justice [ ] Gap has the story. In essence, the prosecution provided a statement admitting over 12 fatal errors. The judge held that the trial could not continue as it would be unfair. Files had been intentionally destroyed by South Wales Police’s investigating officers. See The Guardian 1st December 2011 - Still no justice for the Cardiff Three.
After the collapse of this case, the Director of Public Prosecutions (Mr Keir Starmer QC) expressed "concern" and a request was made to the HM CPS Inspectorate to investigate the matter - BBC 27th January 2012. This BBC report also noted that - "Documents have been found after they were thought to have been destroyed, which had led to the collapse of the UK's biggest police corruption trial."
For those generally interested in miscarriages of justice, a very informative document is Justice [ ] Gap's "Wrongly accused: who is responsible for miscarriages of justice?" (Pdf 76 pages).
The programme noted that the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee is looking at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) - see Home Affairs website. The committee's inquiry will include but is not limited to: the independence of the Commission, the powers and responsibilities of the Commission and the effectiveness of Commission investigations.
The issue of the missing papers (files) has been under investigation by the IPCC since January 2012 - see IPCC announcement of 26th January.
In March 2012 it was reported that the Attorney General and Home Secretary had refused a public inquiry into the collapse of the case against the Police - Channel 4 (5th March). It was estimated that in the region of £30m had been spent bringing the case to court though nobody ever seems to get a breakdown of such figures.
As for the investigation by HM CPS Inspectorate, the Chief Inspector's Annual Report for 2011-12 noted:
"During the course of the year some high profile cases have raised concerns over the CPS handling of the disclosure of sensitive unused material with the resultant risk to reputation. At the request of the Director of Public Prosecutions I have agreed to lead a review of disclosure in the case of R v Mouncher and others (the Lynette White case). The review will include whether the prosecution team (CPS and counsel) approached, prepared and managed disclosure in this case effectively and complied with their disclosure duties properly."
"At the request of the Director of Public Prosecutions, we are also undertaking a review of disclosure in the case of R v Mouncher and others (the Lynette White case), with particular reference to the conduct of the CPS and prosecution counsel in respect of their duties of disclosure. This is a very substantial undertaking and together with the commitment to the SFO inspection activity will require significant resources."
Innocent.org - Cardiff Three